|Art by Nicholas Wostl|
Find him on Instagram @fim_arts
A few weeks ago I wrote about when my Aunt MaryJane died at the beginning of January. Last week I didn't write, couldn't bring myself to write, because we had just lost my Uncle Bill, her husband.
My count now is one pandemic, six deaths in my circle of family and friends (none COVID-related) , and zero funerals. One neighbor and two dear friends were widowed last year. My husband's brother died at his home in Florida. Now, in 2021, my aunt and uncle are both gone in the space of six weeks.
This is the most inhuman part of coping with this pandemic for me -- no funerals. No gathering together to grieve and reminisce and comfort each other.
No hugs. This is particularly brutal for me, as I'm an avid hugger. The first and one of the few times I ugly cried this past year was when the friend I've known since high school lost her husband. I knew there was no way I would travel to Washington State and put my arms around her any time soon.
I've hugged exactly one human being (other than my husband) since this started, and two trees. I read the advice to hug a tree if you were missing hugs during the pandemic. It's no substitute, but it still helped somehow.
I made a firm decision early in the pandemic that I wouldn't attend any funerals. I've been fortunate there have been no hurt feelings so far. Most of the people I know are comforting each other by mail and email and text for now and holding off on gatherings until it's safer.
Uncle Bill died on February 14. My recurring thought is that he went to be with his sweetheart on Valentine's Day. Each time this comes to mind, I cry. Losing them both so close together was devastating.
Uncle Bill was a kind and quiet man, a fan of classic cars. He was so quiet I never felt as if I knew him well, but he was always a peaceful presence. After Aunt MaryJane died, he opened up more. We had a lengthy and lovely conversation before he landed in the hospital with pneumonia.
I'll take the gift of that last conversation and treasure it even more, knowing there won't be more.
Bill and MaryJane lived in Arizona, near most of that side of my convoluted family. It's warm in Phoenix. I hope the family gathers in a park on a pleasant day, to grieve together in that way humans need.
I won't be there, but maybe I can take that time to cry and remember and be with them in time, if not in space.