We buried her this week. She came to an ordinary end in this now-ordinary time: sick of Covid-19 in a nursing home, aged alone and decaying mind, rushed to hospital, dead within hours. We may not know what she really is about her circumstances or what knew their condition beforehand. whether she understood the danger of time or recognized her youngest daughter waving from the car as she looked out the window; if she discovered on her last day that it was that daughter’s voice that came from the space-qualified figure whose gloved hand was holding hers in the hospital when it expired.
Everyone has heard this story countless times since the pandemic broke out. I’ve heard it countless times, usually without the gloved hand, the little grace of that particular death too late to be included in the latest Covid data reported by nursing homes to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network: 58,481 residents died as of September 27; 245,912 confirmed cases; 141,744 suspected cases. It becomes known after seven full months, this raking of the old, the weak, the weak – about 8,354 deaths in nursing homes from the virus every month since March.
Of course, the perspective shifts when the number you are looking at is one.
My aunt grew up when the common fate of a woman was marriage and children. And so she married and so she had children. And moved to the suburbs, to a ranch house with a reinforced and well-equipped fallout shelter. The kids had a collie and a big garden, and then one of them died.
He was her youngest, her only son, 8 years old. They put him in his white communion suit. His skull was broken when a car was plowed into the side of his father’s Buick and the child’s head was thrown against the inner frame of the back seat. I think it was a Buick. My uncle and eldest daughter were in the hospital with broken thighs for months without being properly healed. Then they had operations and plaster casts and lay in rented hospital beds facing each other in the family room for weeks.
And suddenly Aunt Dolor was responsible, laden with grief and the needs of two people who were incapacitated, struggling to be happy for them, to look after them at home, to cook and clean them, and to come up with goodies to eat the other child comfort, the little girl, she was scared and sad and who would be with her decades later when she ran out of breath. I was a child myself then, fascinated by death and injury in the family, and I didn’t know exactly what it cost my aunt. She endured with an often comical sense of fate as she made her own increasing health problems over the years, reaching for joy in the service of love, and “living an abundance every day,” as her granddaughter said, “Grandma Doll . ”
Dolor, Dolores; The name means “grief”.
Since her death I have thought of all women whose work is not recognized in the newspaper articles “Those Weve Lost”. Women who have spent their hours making the house, as it was previously called, and who have been socially invisible in nursing homes since they were 80 or 90 years old or older, are in large numbers as “vulnerable populations” or “victims of the.” Virus “- as if they had never worked to bring about a generation, loved difficult men (or women), cared for old relatives, mourned a lost or maimed child, invented recipes and conversations, invented themselves if there was room her hand was tight on the wheel of history simply by being.
It is not death that is so terrible. It is the darkening of courage and creativity in life. “At least she didn’t suffer,” people said, learning that my aunt had died within hours of arriving at the hospital. It’s what people often say about death and shorten the immense endeavor of life.
Scenes from a pandemic is a collaboration between The nation and Head child, a living memorial to radical journalist Andrew Kopkind, who was the magazine’s foremost political writer and analyst from 1982 to 1994. This series of programs from Kopkind’s distant network of participants, advisors, guests and friends is edited by nation Contributor and Kopkind program director JoAnn Wypijewski and appears weekly on thenation.com and kopkind.org.