My Mother-in-Law died the Wednesday before Mother’s Day 2020 of COVID-19. The hardest thing is that the last time any of us saw her in person, she was well. At 90+, her memory was shot, but she was happy and physically well. (The image in this post is from the last time I saw her, in late February.) That makes closure hard, and it makes it hard for it to feel real. But we all know she was ready to go, which makes it so very much easier.
Many deaths from COVID-19 are tragic, especially those who are young and otherwise healthy, and most deaths are a shock, but not all deaths are a surprise. Even when you know someone is terminally ill, it seems like the finality of their actual passing is still often a shock. But it is was expected, and it isn’t a surprise. She was old and had a litany of health problems, to the point that we joked she was immortal because she had so many things that should have killed her years ago. She has survived a lot and we all loved her, but I am not mourning her passing, as deeply as we do feel our loss.
I have already mourned for her. I mourned when she couldn’t cook anything unless it was microwaved, and again when she couldn’t be trusted to use a microwave unassisted. I mourned when she could no longer live on her own because she couldn’t take care of all her daily physical needs. I mourned when her memory was so poor that she couldn’t remember how to write a check, in spite of decades of doing so. I mourned when she couldn’t remember enough to read an entire book, one of her greatest sources of joy. When she couldn’t remember her oldest grandchildren (the ones she rarely sees), I mourned for her. When she couldn’t walk unassisted any more and needed first a can and later a walker, I mourned for her. I mourned for her when her sister passed and it was something that happened “two months ago” for nearly two years. I mourned for her when her much-loved “baby brother” died and she had forgotten she ever had siblings until I reminded her with pictures. (She kept his final picture on his wall but didn’t remember that she had siblings without reminding.) I mourned when she had to move out of her one bedroom apartment into assisted living, and again when she moved from her itty bitty studio apartment in assisted living into a shared room in the nursing home next door (part of the same complex).
But I rejoiced for her when she forgot living through wars and invasions. I rejoiced for her when she forgot the ex-husband she detested. I rejoiced when she forgot the losses, assaults, and deaths that were part of living through all she had lived through. I rejoiced for her when she forgot enough that she could no longer remember how much she had lost, and be pained by it. I rejoiced for her when she was able to find joy in helping others in worse shape than her in her final year, and knowing that she was peaceful and happy.
And now I can rejoice for her that she is with those who love her and have gone before her. I can rejoice for her that she is no longer in pain, her memories (and teeth) are hers again, and she is free of the physical shell that has been deteriorating for many years. While we will miss her because we love her, she is happier now than she has been since FDRs first term.