Stories: Who We Have Lost

I Am My Father's Daughter

Story aboutMichael Polonus

The last time I saw my father was on November 16, 2019. Because of his failing health, he was put in a nursing home. Then COVID arrived and the lockdowns began. Ten days after he entered the nursing home, he died alone on a floor from neglect. I believe that there are so many others who died of neglect during the start of the pandemic. They are not counted as COVID deaths but they would still be alive if their families could have checked on them.

Because of my own immune issues, I could not attend his funeral. I wrote these words immediately after I found out that he had died:

My Dad died on April 7, 2020. He entered the world with nothing and left with nothing but he left a lot behind in this world.

He was raised in Elmhurst, IL with his brother Dick. They were 2nd generation Americans with their family roots in Lithuania. His grandparents came to America during the potato famine and entered through Ellis Island, settling in the Chicago area.

My Dad did not have much when he was a child, hand me down clothes and sticks for toys, but he worked hard and paid his way through college, then worked his way up the ladder to become a successful businessman.

My father was a man of principles.

#1 – Work hard.

#2 – Never lie, cheat or steal. He was the most honest man you will ever know.

#3 – He was generous; boy was he ever.

He loved meeting people; he would talk to any one with genuine warmth and compassion.

He didn’t care who you were, if you were hard working and honest he would give you a chance and the shirt off his back.

He believed in education and paid for his children’s education; allowing my brother and me the gift of graduating debt free. He wanted us to be successful and pushed us to set a high standard of excellence. He said that if you had an education and worked hard, that’s all you needed in life to succeed.

He made his children responsible from a very young age; chores and tasks were part of everyday life. We have that work ethic still today. My brother and I are two of the most responsible people I know. It’s funny how, even though my brother and I are very different people, we are also very much the same because of the values that my father instilled in us.

He believed in quality – buy quality and take care of things he would say – they should last forever. Any person that purchased a used car from my Dad got the best used car money could buy; immaculate, all services performed, records kept – they were like new.

He loved his grandchildren and wanted to share his success with them. He supported their education and traveled with each of them as they came of age. He allowed me the opportunity to travel the world with him also. We had so much fun on our trips. That is such a special gift that he gave to me.

I have his hair, I have his teeth, I have his eyes and as I age, I look in the mirror and I have his face. I have so many qualities of his that I have both loved and cursed, but now that he is gone, they are all beautifully special to me. I am my father’s daughter and for that I will forever be proud and humbled.

My Husband of 57 Years

Story aboutKenneth Wright (1 of 2)

My husband and I were married when I was 17 and a senior in high school and he was 19. We both worked and made a home together and after we married for 7 years had our 1st son Timothy. Our 2nd son was born 22 months later Todd! My husband worked for CSX Railroad for 40 years and retired at the age of 60. He loved working at the railroad and took pride in it. He loved playing baseball, loved bowling and collecting baseball cards. He also, coached our son’s little league teams.

We always had nice homes to live in and the railroad transferred him to Jacksonville Florida for 16 years. He had a lot of friends that he worked with and also went to school with! We attended Atwood Wesleyan church since he was born. My husband loved the lord and was a gentle soul.

A few years ago he was diagnosed with heart failure. Last year 2020 he was in and out of the hospital. In May I had to take him to the hospital; he was having swelling in his feet and ankles. The nurses came from the tent outside the hospital and put a mask on him and took him from our car into the tents outside the hospital. I didn’t know whether I was supposed to stay there or what! They called me a couple of hours later to let me know that they were admitting him. I was not allowed in.

A week later he was sent to a rehab (nursing home) which I was not allowed in. I did get to see him a couple of times through a window. He was alone. After 3 weeks there he came home, very weak. In June he had to go back to the hospital. He was tested for COVID and tested negative. After a couple of weeks alone in the hospital he came home. In July I had to get an ambulance to take him back to the hospital. Four days later he tested positive for COVID. Again I wasn’t allowed to see him. He was in quarantine.

My husband

Story aboutKenneth Wright (2 of 2)

After a week he was sent to a nursing home to their COVID unit in their basement! I am devastated. He was so upset he was not being taken care of and he was so alone and in the basement. On Friday I tried to call him and the nurses station 11 times no answer. At 11 :00 that night someone answered and told me he was fine!!

The very next morning at 10:00 am Audubon Hospital Emergency room called to ask me if I knew that my husband was there in the emergency room. I did not know. No one had called me to let me know that he was on the way to the hospital. The emergency room doctor said that he was barely breathing and that they needed permission to put him on a ventilator and to insert a pick line. Of course I gave my permission! He was then taken to the intensive care unit. I was not allowed in for 4 days! When they took him off of the ventilator I had to decide on a DNR. These decisions were the hardest I have ever made.

Finally he was put in a regular room. I got to see him a couple of days then suddenly he was in quarantine again. I was shocked. I had just seen him the day before. They made me stand in his doorway. He didn’t know it was me. I left crying, hurt, and confused! The very next day I was allowed to spend the day with him. Our sons had not been allowed to s even him. I Facetimed with our oldest and they were able to say I love you. Then Kenny went to sleep while I sat there with him. I left and went home. The very next morning the nurse called and said that his breathing was getting shallow so our sons and I rushed up to the hospital. When I walked in they took my temperature and called the nurses station and it was the wrong floor. I waited and then when they were calling the correct floor no one answered. I left and told them I was going up there and they called security on me. I got on the elevator 2 security guys came after me. I told them my husband was dying and they said because of protocol I couldn’t go up there. I insisted and they rode the elevator with me. I got off the elevator and a nurse was waiting for me and I asked her to please let our sons come up to be with their father. They did send for our boys. By the time we got to his room he had just taken his last breath before we could be with him and hold his hand . . . he died without family and he loved his family. I am so heart broken. Ten months ago this morning. COVID 19.

You know it, Dad

Story aboutKenneth Wright

We miss you daily. We wish we could have spent more time with you those last six weeks. Hopefully you are playing cards with Grandma and Grandpa. You know it, Dad.

In Memory of My Grandma

Story aboutJanette Glover

On July 8, 1934 the most amazing woman was born. She was the best mother, sister, daughter, but most of all the best Grandmother we could have asked for! She dedicated her life to helping others and never once had a bad word to say about anyone. She was the most caring person I ever knew and never gave up on any of us no matter what!

On June 25, 2020 our entire world as we knew it came to end! Our sweet mother and grandmother took her last breath at 12:14 am and returned home! She was at peace!

Due to covid and the regulations we were never able to actually tell her goodbye or even hold her hand, and Unless you had to go thru it you will never understood how hard that was! It’s almost been 1 year this Friday and it has not been a day that goes by that we don’t cry and remember her! She was the rock for everyone and I’m so thankful for all the memories we have of her!

My Partner

Story aboutHarmon Clem

I lost my husband to Covid on Dec. 24th, 2020. The worst day of my life. Going on without your husband of 38 years is the hardest thing I can imagine. I look forward to reuniting with him in heaven.

One Last Talk

Story aboutWalter Lovelace Jr.

I lost my dad. My dad was everything; my role model, my best friend, my everything. One day in September my father told me he was in the hospital with Covid-19. I was shocked because he was so cautious when it came to the virus but the last Saturday in September changed my life forever.

My father called me from the hospital asking for me to bring him some underwear. I told him I was at work and that I couldn’t leave. He told me, “Make your money son.” That was the last conversation I ever had with my dad. The next day my father stopped breathing and was pronounced to be in a coma. My father fought for two months to try to beat it but it was too late.

On November 6th, I got a phone call at 3:20am saying that my dad wasn’t going to make it till morning. We had had a meeting scheduled for that morning to come up with a plan to help save my father. So I got up and hurried to make it down there. When I arrived, it was just me and my dad in the room for almost an hour. Then, my little sister arrived. But before that, during the time it was just me there with my dad, for that whole hour, I was just holding his hand. I couldn’t believe my best friend could not talk to me.

My sister and I were sitting in the room with my father and the nurse told me that we needed to make a decision about whether to take him off of life support or let him pass in a nursing home on his own. We told them we would rather let him go with his kids in the room, rather than having him pass alone somewhere else.

So, dad passed away at 6:05am that morning. We watched his heart rate slowly drop.

I went home to process everything that had just happened. Over the next few days the funeral was planned. Though not only the funeral because my sweet baby girl, my first child, was going to try to make her way into the world. She could come at any moment. Yes, my dad passed away before meeting his first grandchild. He had been excited to be a grandfather and couldn’t wait to meet her.

In the next couple of weeks my dad’s funeral was held and he was buried in Alabama. I distanced myself from his family because my father was the only person I could trust. But then, two weeks after the funeral, three days before my dad’s birthday, my daughter Kendyll was born on November 20th at 12:04pm in the same hospital where my dad passed away.

Most dads cry when they hear their baby’s first cry. I couldn’t even cry though because my smile was ear to ear when I saw her pretty face. She looked just like my dad. I couldn’t believe that the worst month had turned into the greatest month of my life. After that I didn’t worry about the family I was born into because I have my own family now. I’m doing much better. My daughter is almost seven months old. My dad is always with me and my sister.

Her name was June. She was my grandmother.

Story aboutJune Hill (1 of 2)

When you lose someone, you lose them in a thousand different ways.

You lose her birthday cards that come to your mailbox; you lose her voice on the other end of the receiver. You miss the image of her, sitting in the lift chair, feet kicked up. You miss the taste of her creamed potatoes, the liver spots on her hands, the way her fingers crooked at their ends. You miss her black hair with silver streaks, the pitch in her voice when she laughs. You lose making plans to see her. You lose new pictures and new memories as if she’s vanished from the frame.

About a week ago, I talked to my grandmother on the phone. She had a dry cough and had been to an urgent care where they diagnosed her with bronchitis. She said she took cough medicine twice a day, and she was surprised that the syrup tasted good. Her voice sounded strong even though she said her legs had been weak. She couldn’t get up to “wet” because her legs would fall out from under her. She’d managed to get a wastebasket, pulling it to her chair. When she felt like she was about to explode, she’d hover over it. She said she managed not to make a mess.

I don’t remember everything we talked about, it seems so trivial now, but I know we talked about Gov. Andy Beshear and his updates, showing true leadership. She mentioned that she’d put a card in the mail for my youngest, who turns 7 on April 10. We said, “I love you,” keeping the conversation brief, so she didn’t cough.

A few days later, my father called to say that she had been taken by ambulance to Baptist Health Madisonville because she was so weak. Aunt Beverly had to sit outside in the parking lot because no visitors were allowed. Aunt Bev sat there, not knowing what to do other than call around, updating family, and calling the hospital for updates.

Her name was June.

Story aboutJune Hill (2 of 2)

The first update said she had pneumonia. The second that she was in isolation on a COVID-19 floor. She’d been tested, of course, but her results wouldn’t be available for 48 hours. Very few staff worked the unit to minimize transmission. She’d have to test negative twice to be moved elsewhere.

At first, updates were mostly positive. She wanted to go home, which was a good sign. There was even talk about sending her home. But then we received word that she’d tested positive for COVID-19. In just a few hours, her oxygen levels began to drop, the pneumonia built in her lungs. She, as the medical professionals say, had taken a turn for the worse.

Waking can be hard because you remember. You remember someone you love is hurting, can’t quite catch her breath, and she’s alone in a hospital room. That’s the cruelty of COVID-19, the separation. As humans, we need connection, but COVID-19 has severed that cord ruthlessly.

I woke this morning and headed downstairs. It was too early to call for updates. But at about 7:30 a.m. as I made a chicken salad sandwich, my phone rang.

Did I know before I knew? Before I heard my father weeping? Before the words “she passed sometime during the night?”

Everything unravels in that moment. Everything you’ve held close, the breath and tears, let loose.

Will there be a funeral? Will we be able to hug? Are we carrying this grief alone, too, only to cut it open when we see one another again? If we are able to see one another again? Will a hug even mean the same?

That’s another thing COVID does — it makes you question a gesture once meant for comfort, because now anything might kill you.

It’s easy to hear statistics on the news — a number isn’t a person, but when one number becomes a person you love, you’re angry and scared shitless.

If this faceless killer can find my grandmother, homebound, in rural Kentucky, it can find us all.

We’re all more than a number, let’s not forget. Her name was June. She was a mother, grandmother, sister, aunt. She loved us all, and we loved her.

Jamey Temple is June Hill’s granddaughter and an English professor at University of the Cumberlands. This piece was published in The Courier Journal, 4/5/2020.

Our Brother: Herby Cheser

Story aboutHerby Cheser

Our brother lost his life to Covid-19 at the age of 68 on January 26, 2021. It broke our hearts to send him into the hospital by himself. We didn’t know that cold Sunday afternoon in January when we sent him in that it would be the last time we would see him alive. That was the hardest thing we did. I would call and talk with him on the phone. He would say they don’t know what’s going on. On Wednesday he took pneumonia during the night and they took him to the ICU, put him on a ventilator, and that was the end of his quality of life. He laid in ICU with our only updates from phone calls to the nurses who were too busy to talk to us. Call back, they would say, and, when you did, they sent you word by anyone answering the phones in the ICU.

We were called around 5:30am on January 26th to come to the hospital. He had gotten worse. By 10:43am they took him off the ventilator and he passed a few minutes later. We didn’t get to say goodbye and he never knew we were there. Oh how hard this was. He was our baby brother and we are a very close family. We will never get over this. We are so grateful for the flag on the Capitol grounds in remembrance of him. God bless his sweet heart.

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