Stories: Who We Have Lost
Her Name Was June
Who did you lose to Covid 19? June Hill (2 of 2)
The first update said she had pneumonia. The second that she was in isolation on a COVID-19 floor. She’d been tested, of course, but her results wouldn’t be available for 48 hours. Very few staff worked the unit to minimize transmission. She’d have to test negative twice to be moved elsewhere.
At first, updates were mostly positive. She wanted to go home, which was a good sign. There was even talk about sending her home. But then we received word that she’d tested positive for COVID-19. In just a few hours, her oxygen levels began to drop, the pneumonia built in her lungs. She, as the medical professionals say, had taken a turn for the worse.
Waking can be hard because you remember. You remember someone you love is hurting, can’t quite catch her breath, and she’s alone in a hospital room. That’s the cruelty of COVID-19, the separation. As humans, we need connection, but COVID-19 has severed that cord ruthlessly.
I woke this morning and headed downstairs. It was too early to call for updates. But at about 7:30 a.m. as I made a chicken salad sandwich, my phone rang.
Did I know before I knew? Before I heard my father weeping? Before the words “she passed sometime during the night?”
Everything unravels in that moment. Everything you’ve held close, the breath and tears, let loose.
Will there be a funeral? Will we be able to hug? Are we carrying this grief alone, too, only to cut it open when we see one another again? If we are able to see one another again? Will a hug even mean the same?
That’s another thing COVID does — it makes you question a gesture once meant for comfort, because now anything might kill you.
It’s easy to hear statistics on the news — a number isn’t a person, but when one number becomes a person you love, you’re angry and scared shitless.
If this faceless killer can find my grandmother, homebound, in rural Kentucky, it can find us all.
We’re all more than a number, let’s not forget. Her name was June. She was a mother, grandmother, sister, aunt. She loved us all, and we loved her.
Jamey Temple is June Hill’s granddaughter and an English professor at University of the Cumberlands. This piece was published in The Courier Journal, 4/5/2020.