Stories: Who We Have Lost

Any Pie is Good Pie

Story aboutRamona Gordon

My mother’s pies were more than just dessert. In my family, they were considered the pinnacle of culinary perfection; the standard by which all other desserts would forever be measured. The secret was the crust, which was always a flaky, golden brown masterpiece — just the right vehicle to hold the delectable fruity filling within. I have never tasted anything else that even comes close.

Mom’s talent for pie making was truly a gift from above. Her mother’s pies never quite measured up. And when Mom tried to teach me this baking skill, I proved to be sorely lacking the pie-baking gene. Part of me suspected that Mom was happy to wear this crown in our family, and for years we all looked forward to the pies we would enjoy during every visit to my parents’ house.

But this January, when my sister and I went to see Mom one week before she passed away, pie couldn’t have been further from my mind. The doctor had called us to say my mother was deteriorating; we were given permission to visit for one hour. We donned PPE since there were several COVID positive residents in her area, and we got to spend some time with her. We were grateful to be able to see her, but Alzheimer’s had robbed her of so much. Our hearts were breaking.

Mom was frantic when we arrived, and my sister and I didn’t know what to do. Our efforts to comfort her weren’t working. We tried singing show tunes to help her relax. We sang “The Wells Fargo Wagon” from The Music Man, which was her favorite musical. We prayed. We tried to reminisce. Sadly, Mom wasn’t really able to follow the conversation, her responses revealing the devastating disease. But when it was nearly time for Mom’s lunch, my sister started talking about pie.

“It is almost lunchtime, Mom. Do you think they will have pie?” my sister said, trying to fill the gaps of conversation. “What kind of pie do you like, Mom? What is your favorite?”

Mom looked up at us and with a clear voice she answered, “Any pie is good pie.”

Mom was back, even if just for a second, and we were connected again. That was the last “real” thing she said to me. I will savor the flavor of that moment for the rest of my days.

Live Like Pop: The Penny Project

Story aboutTommy Sizemore

I’ve begun a project called “Live Like Pop” in honor of my Dad, aka Pop, who was the best man I’ve ever known and helped others selflessly every day without expecting anything in return. The project is in honor of my father, but also all those we’ve lost to Covid-19. As a nurse practitioner, I am sadly immersed in these losses everyday, both personally and professionally. And, my life will be forever affected by this.

The penny represents my Dad because he owned his own coin operated laundry business since he was 16 years old and he would always find coins in the dryer that he would give to me. One day when I was about 6, he found about ten shrunken pennies in the dryer. I remember his hands as he got down on his knee and handed them to me. I saved all of our coins we found over the years. So what may look like a penny to some, when I look, I see my Dad.

My Pop cared for everyone, including all pets. He used to carry around extra dog and cat food in the back of his truck, and would feed every stray he saw. He loved his life, lived it to the fullest, laughed often, gave his wife and 6 kids the best life anyone could ever dream of.

One of my many favorite childhood memories: after working all day, he would come have tea parties with me outside in the wooden playhouse he built for me. He was so tall that when he sat in my playhouse as I prepared the tea (fruit juice, sprite, kool aid), his head touched the roof. Still, he smiled and drank my very creative teas. Then, he would come to my playroom where I set up a grocery store. He would push my little yellow buggy around and pick out fake groceries and let me scan them. Then he would pay me with my fake money. Even then, the seeds of my penny project were being sown.

My project is still being put together. It’s a work in progress, which seems appropriate, given how we’ve lived our lives since the pandemic began. To hear more about what I’m doing, visit my website: Send me a penny with your thoughts. Let’s all remember together.

El Salvador

Story aboutWilfredo Rivera

You were taken on New Year’s Eve. It was just diagnosed as bronchopneumonia then. You left before meeting your grandson Leo. You’re forever in my thoughts. Love, your son.

A million dreams …

Story aboutPhilip Sardelis

Philip was a dreamer, big was not big enough for him. Extremely driven and a conqueror. He was bigger than life.

My husband and I met in 2003, through the internet. Fresh off the airplane this guy caught my attention and so did I in his eyes. A Greek god he called himself … hmmm … I loved him instantly. Then the day he told me he had fallen in love with me, OMG!! … I did too. Pregnancy, marriage, house, kids …12 years were not enough … a wrestling tournament in PA our demise … why oh why did you go … we shared the disease, as I suffered it too, but it is not even, it picks carefully who it will kill … and it was not me … March 8th positive, March 18 intubated, March 25th ECMO, April 24th death … May 5th, that day my white wedding dress became black … and my anguish to run away from the pain began.

12 years were not enough: your mom, your sister, your wife (me), your children, family and friends — we will never take breathing for granted again.

I love you, you will always be unconditionally loved …
Your one and only, your wife … :'(

My mom lost her left arm in freak gun accident when she was 7 years old. She spent 6 months in a children’s rehab hospital learning how to use an artificial arm. My grandmother was determined that my mom would never let my mom feel sorry for herself and that she would be able to accomplish anything that she wanted to. She rode and showed horses. She drove a stick shift car (it was all they had when she was 16). She loved being outdoors and had a gift with plants and flowers. She was also an avid exerciser and loved to swim She was an amazing mother — even though she worked full time, she never missed any activity that me or my brother were involved in — she was the very definition of a super mom. She never let her status as an amputee define her.

She was also very blunt and had a biting sense of humor (if you were not prepared to hear the absolute truth, you should never have asked for her opinion). She was an amazing story teller and some of her best stories happened to involve being an amputee.

Her favorite story was from one of our family vacations to the Gulf Coast of Florida. My mom used a different artificial arm when she would swim. It did not have straps on it because she did not want to have tan lines (yes, she was a little vain too). She was floating on her stomach on a raft in the ocean and she fell asleep. A wave woke her with a start and her artificial arm fell off into the ocean. Panicked, she jumped off the float and started searching for it (artificial limbs are VERY expensive and are not fully covered by insurance). A kind lady noticed my mom walking in circles and asked if she needed help. My mom explained what had happened and the lady began helping my mom with the search. Around 10 minutes later, the kind lady reached down into the water and pulled out my mom’s artificial arm and exclaimed loudly, “Is this your arm?!?” The way my mom described the story, it was as if the lady was clarifying that this was actually my mom’s arm because there were all these other artificial arms floating around the Gulf of Mexico which of course is silly to say the least. My mom started laughing and said, “Yes, that particular arm is mine, thank you.”

She told that story many times over the years and no matter how many times I heard it, it was always funny (her delivery was the best). My mom always had a way of looking on the bright side of everything. Whenever she would go through security at an airport, her arm would always set off the alarm. She would always say, “Yes, I am armed.” The security folks would always laugh. One time, she went through security and a pilot that was a double arm amputee set off the alarm right behind her and she “high fived” him and everyone around us in the security line started laughing.

She over came so much in her life; she was an amazing person. She was truly one of a kind and I miss her so much.

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