A better place

April 1, 2021 - 12:00am -- Living City

A better place
How a woman coped with losing her mother to Covid-19

By Manon Proulx

When we started the lockdown in the U.S. one year ago, my mother and sister Joanne in Montreal went on lockdown, too. Because the borders were closed, I could not go to visit my mother who was living with advanced Alzheimer’s in an assisted living facility. Since only Joanne was able to visit my mother — our other sister lived farther away — she became my hands and eyes, checking on our mother. We all prayed a lot because we knew that nursing homes and other such facilities were at high risk of contagion!

For two months, everything was fine. The last time I visited her was during my vacation last summer; but Joanne went regularly, and we did a lot of FaceTime calls together. Mid-May, however, we received a phone call that my mother had tested positive for Covid-19. However, she seemed to be feeling well and showed no symptoms — the staff thought she could be asymptomatic.

At that point, around 40% of all the residents in that facility were infected!

Both Joanne my sisters and I were shocked to hear this news, and I immediately thought: it is the fault of the administration of the facility! How did the virus enter a place where people are supposed to be protected?

My mother was 96 years old and even if she had advanced Alzheimer’s, her heart was strong. We desperately hoped she would make it.

Just five days before my mother tested positive, we had a FaceTime together and even if my mother could not speak anymore because of the Alzheimer’s I was so happy to see from her reaction that she recognized me.

Then everything happened very fast. The day before she passed away she had breakfast; then one hour later she went into a coma. The staff didn’t know why, but noticed that all of a sudden she had difficulty breathing.

Joanne rushed in to see her — only one person was allowed, and without a cellphone, so she could not call me. In the meantime, I was weighing my options—would the border be open to me, a Canadian citizen? Even if it were, would I be able then to return to the States? Going to her just didn’t seem possible.

My sister was able to remain by my mother’s side during that last day. Also the staff became like our hands and our hearts; when Joanne went home, the caregivers were like angels, like heroes. There was always someone by her bed holding her hand. Joanne and I were deeply touched by that selflessness.

My mom’s eyes were closed but my sister talked to her about the family and she would react.

She passed away during the night. It was a Saturday, a day traditionally dedicated to Our Lady. Mary came to pick her up!

The burial of course had to be done differently—because of her Covid infection she had to be cremated. I didn’t see my mom and would not even be able to see a picture of her in the coffin. Since churches were closed for funerals, we could only arrange a Memorial Mass. We don’t know yet when her actual burial will take place.

When you lose a loved one, a funeral service gives a certain measure of closure. For me, this situation is still pending; and sometime I have the impression that there is still no conclusion.

What helped me to cope was the love of the others in my Focolare community. They were like a lighthouse for me. Without them, I would not have been able to see the light.

Now, several months have passed, yet I still feel the separation. I won’t see my mother anymore, I won’t hear her voice anymore. But I am sure she is better off where she is now, she is happy… I imagine her singing and playing the piano, which she loved to do so much on earth.

I don’t have any hard feelings anymore. I was helped in this by aligning my suffering with Jesus’ suffering on the cross, when he felt abandoned by the Father, but continued to love. For my sisters, they feel the same — we know that our mom is not suffering anymore. She is now free from the Alzheimer’s that had changed her life so deeply during these last years.

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