It’s Wednesday morning and I am in the air flying to my father’s funeral. It is so surreal to be experiencing this during the Covid-19 pandemic. In some ways, it is so much harder and in others way things are simpler. My father passed away on Monday of an emergency not the corona virus.
My father a retired naval officer lived in a Louisiana State Veteran’s Home. My Mother received a call there was a complication from a minor medical procedure and they were taking him by ambulance to the hospital. My Mother called the family and then proceeded to wait in the emergency room parking lot. She saw my Dad go into the hospital from the ambulance but was not allowed to be with him. The staff was kind to my mother and came out to update her that he had arrived and the doctor would come out once he had examined Dad. My Mom updated us and we weren’t thinking that anything was serious.
Dying during a pandemic is a terrible way to die because you are alone. The doctor came out to see my mom and was full of empathy as he informed my mother that my dad had passed away while she sat in the car alone in the emergency room parking lot. My poor mother called everyone from the car and continued to wait in the parking lot until she could see my father for the last time. The wait involved waiting for the coroner. Finally, she was able to go into to see my father which was a real blessing for her. The last time she had seen him was through the window of the nursing home as no visitors were allowed. The doctor escorted my mother into see dad and he was so thoughtful. When my mom expressed a wish that her children could see him he helped her take a photo that she could share with us. She mentioned to me when she shared the story how young the doctor was. I couldn’t imagine how much death he had seen in his short career.
After the shock subsided, all the questions emerged. Can we have a funeral? Should I fly? Is it risky to be with my mom coming from Washington State? Is it dangerous for me to go to Louisiana? My husband jumped into gear and was already looking into flights while I was on the phone. He said something that really resonated with me. “We got this, we are a military family and they aren’t like other families.” So true and with the precision of an operations order, flights were booked, notifications and decisions made. Due to travel restrictions for my husband and my son distant learning we decided I would go alone.
Flights were a little challenging as there were limited options. Luckily, I was flying out of a major airport and although I couldn’t fly into Baton Rouge the nearest airport I was able to get into New Orleans is only an hour drive away. A positive is that last minute flights are much less than they normally are and first class was not an expensive upgrade.
We were all nervous as to what would happen due to all the news stories about morgues and funeral homes overwhelmed. We lucked out and everything was arranged very quickly but also very sad. We can’t have a catholic funeral mass which is tragic for our family. We are only allowed 10 people in a cemetery service. One thing my dad has always expressed a wish for was to have military honors and that is not an option at this time. So even though it is very difficult it is also simpler with easy decisions and much less expense for my father’s estate.
The Silver Lining
My mother is 80 and I was worried about her and the fact we couldn’t travel. I am able to go spend a week with her. I am very grateful for the resilience I have built during my years as a military spouse that kicks in at times like these. I know I will get through this but I have to admit it is tough. So this is what it is like to lose a loved one during these times. Reach out to those you love especially the older ones. Call or use snail mail and connect in these uncertain times. You won’t regret it.
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.PeggyWhereShouldIGo.com