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Three Virtual Funerals: One Woman’s Story Of Pandemic Loss

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PENNSYLVANIA — If their great-grandparents had made it a few more years, Lindsay’s pre-school children might have had a memory of them for life.

But they won’t remember their great-grandmother and grandfather, who were from Bedford. The couple died of COVID-19 in May at the ages of 78 and 80.

Lindsay G., who lives in the Greater Philadelphia area, agreed to share her story of the three virtual funerals she’s attended after COVID-19 took people she knew. She asked that her full name be withheld, after encountering online threats by those who doubt the pandemic’s severity.

Statistics show about two of three deaths from COVID-19 have been people 80 or older. The CDC reports that 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths are people 65 or older.

To Lindsay, these numbers are more than mere statistics.

“First we lost my husband’s grandparents,” she said. “His grandmother caught it in May. She became ill, and then his grandfather also became ill.”

Lindsay said her grandmother-in-law was overweight and diabetic, and quickly became very sick. Her husband of 60 decades visited her at the hospital over a couple of weeks, but then he also became very ill, very fast.

He also was hospitalized. For several days, both were intubated at the same hospital but in different rooms. During that time, no visitors were allowed.
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He died first. Then, a few days later, his wife died. That was in May, Lindsay said.

The couple had been married since she was 18 and he was 20. When they died within days of each other, she was 78 and he had just turned 80. He had been in the military, so they moved around when they were younger, then came back to the Bedford area later in life. Before they retired they owned and operated a nursing home.

“They didn’t get to say goodbye to each other or to anybody else. That was the really hard one,” Lindsay said. “It was terrible.”

Both of the grandparents chose to be cremated. “It was very difficult trying to put a funeral together because family members were in different parts of the country,” Lindsay said.

It took a month to organize the memorial, collecting the remains so they could both be together in the same place. The funeral didn’t happen until June.

Their church in Bedford did most of the work planning a double funeral on Zoom, Lindsay said.

“People could come in and tell stories about them. It was hard because people their age didn’t know how to use Zoom, but once they figured it out, they didn’t really know how to stop talking.” She laughed a little.

She thought about this couple who’d lived long lives, and in simple ways had made life better for those around them. “Everybody loved them, they were good, decent people,” she said.

“His grandmother had one of the most amazing singing voices I’ve heard. She was an incredible, booming alto. She sang the old hymns; ‘Near the Cross’ was her favorite. She was so good, one of five daughters. She was the only daughter who stayed in Pennsylvania, so she took care of her own elderly mom until her mom was over 100, and she was in her late 70s.”

The worst part, for Lindsay, was the suddenness of it. “We hadn’t seen them for a while. We’d normally see them on holidays. But then they got sick, then they were gone. It happened quickly.”

She adds: “I don’t think my children know that they’re gone, gone.”

Lindsay mused that if her husband’s parents had made it another five years, the children might have remembered them. “Life is valuable,” she said.

In August, Lindsay was notified by a friend that her former boss had died of COVID-19. Unlike the case of her older grandparents-in-law, this was a healthy man in his early 50s, she said. The former police officer and a military veteran had also suffered through intubation before his death, she was told.

“He had a wife and daughter and small grandson,” she said.

Acquaintances shared the news as the Malvern man’s Catholic church prepared a livestreamed funeral service. In the online comments, Lindsay left condolences.

Read a story about long-term care deaths in Chester and Delaware counties here.

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