March 10th, 2020, was the day my cherished grandma passed away. It was unrelated to COVID-19 but just as shocking. She suffered from a stroke and it wouldn’t be an easy recovery. Ultimately, her suffering was spared and she was taken from us very unexpectedly. Both sets of my grandparents live in Florida and though we are far in distance we are extremely close. My grandma’s body was flown up to New Jersey to be buried and my grandpa along with my uncle and two cousins hopped on a plane. COVID was still in its early stages and we had not officially gone into quarantine lockdown until 3 days after the funeral but the virus was still very much a threat in our minds.
My grandma was a highly loved and respected woman and the virus prevented many people from attending the funeral, only close family members were present. As funerals usually go, it rained as we stood graveside to put her to rest. The funeral was not what any of us could have envisioned, though it was nice to have a close intimate group. Even so, our family was scared to be around one another out of caution and we were wary of hugging. My grandmas’ many friends who would have been there under normal circumstances did not show up in person but called instead. All of this is understandable given what is going in on in the world but it still sticks with me and makes me sad that she was not given a proper goodbye from all the people that adored her. I know that she still stays in all of our minds but dealing with grief as well as everything else that has happened this year has been extremely hard.
Unfortunately, this year didn’t get any easier for my family. In June my other beautiful grandma caught COVID and spent over a week in the hospital fighting for her life. She was over 80 years old and was not strong enough to be put on a ventilator. We did not go down to Florida to be with her due to the risks and even my grandpa wasn’t allowed into the hospital to see her as he is also extremely vulnerable. Two nights before she passed away we were able to see her on FaceTime thanks to the wonderful nurse that was taking care of her. She spent that week in pain with no family there to hold her hand. Thinking about her being alone makes me sad, angry, regretful and so much more. I know there isn’t anything I could have done, I just wish I could have been there for her.
My cousins arranged a funeral on Zoom for our family. My grandpa went to the gravesite to bury her along with the Rabbi and two family members. They joined the Zoom and the Rabbi said a few prayers and words about my grandmother. We watched virtually as my grandpa cried and struggled to breathe through his mask as he was very emotional and the Florida heat was getting to him. My grandpa ended up asking if the Rabbi could rush the service along since he was getting overwhelmed. It was terrible to see him in pain knowing we couldn’t be there and won’t be seeing him until it's safe. Our family continued the Zoom call on our own sharing stories of my grandma which made us both laugh and cry.
It’s hard losing both grandmas and knowing that I couldn’t give them one last hug. I think about it every day. I am glad they are both at peace now and I only hope I can honor their memory. To anyone dealing with grief right now know that you are not alone, it is painful and not fair as many other things have not been this year. Hold your family and loved ones close, check-in on the people you care about, and keep those around you safe. We have been through so much this year and we will continue to push on as long as we have our health and happiness. We will get through it together.