My father in law, one of my favorite people in the world, passed away yesterday. He tested positive for COVID-19 in the hospital, and was eventually moved to hospice. There was no bedside family vigil when hospice was called in. There was no last hug. No one was there holding his hand. He passed away in isolation.
There will be no family gathering. No Irish wake. No group celebration of his life.
I want to hug my brothers and sisters in law, my 23 nieces and nephews. I want to get together with everyone and tell stories about him. I want to cry with them, and laugh with them. I want to be surrounded by the grand-nieces and grand-nephews. I want to hug all 31 of them. I want to deliver a clever, carefully crafted eulogy that I know would’ve made Charlie laugh and cry, feel honored, embarrassed, and proud.
We all want to stand in a line and shake hands and hug every single visitor as they pay their respects. We want to have a fancy repast at a local restaurant, listening to the rising and falling of voices, raising our glasses and toasting the man, laughing, eating, and hugging. But we can’t do what we want do. We can’t do what Charlie wanted us to do.
We can’t do so many things right now. We all have to adjust, and we all have to release our expectations. We have to accept this situation, try to make the best of it, and look for the good.
So we have turned to social media. We watched a live stream mass delivered by Charlie’s brother, on Zoom. We continue to pore through heartfelt condolences from friends on Facebook. We answer so many texts and phone calls. We FaceTime. This is how we share our grief in the time of COVID-19.
And we take great comfort from the opportunity afforded us by his nurse, Becca, at Valley Hospital. She called us three times to FaceTime with Charlie. The first time he was mostly asleep, but we all talked a lot on our end, and we got a little smile out of him. The next day when she called us he was out of it, completely unresponsive. But she called back a few minutes later and excitedly said ‘Now he’s awake! Now he’s talking! And I didn’t want you to miss it!’
He was awake, alert, and he spoke to my husband. He said ‘I love you’ and ‘Take it easy now, Johnny. Take it easy.’ And John had the chance to say a lot of things. We know he was listening. We know he heard every word. We know that he didn’t feel alone in that moment. Becca was such a blessing for us, an angel who gave us some peace. As are so many of the people working on the front lines right now.
We can’t have things the way we want them. We all have to sacrifice our rites and rituals: our funerals, weddings, holidays, graduations… but we don’t have to sacrifice our faith in humanity. We must look around and be reminded that kindness and compassion are not so hard to come by. There are so many wonderful people doing such amazing and important work everywhere right now. They are saving lives, providing comfort, easing transitions, and bringing us peace.
In memory of Charlie’s life, and in honor of all the folks that are out there saving lives and bringing peace, our family is requesting donations for the Nutley Volunteer Emergency and Rescue Squad