Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Memento Mori

 So, 2020 happened. That was a thing. As I'm sure it was for all of us, it was a particularly hard year for me. At the end of March, just before COVID-19 took over all of our lives, my mother passed away unexpectedly. There is some confusion about how exactly she passed, and I'm not convinced that COVID did not play a part, but testing was not being done at that time. She went into the hospital to get treated for rhabdomyolysis. She had been complaining of muscle pain and weakness in her legs for weeks and my daughter, who is a pharmacy student, discovered that she was taking two different statins (something you should never do). Mom went to the ER and it was confirmed that she had statin induced rhabdo. She spent several weeks in the hospital being treated, and was on the mend. I visited with her every day back then, and we could see the COVID hysteria ramping up around us. At that time, there was only one confirmed COVID patient in our city (and not in our hospital). After her treatment concluded, she was transferred to an off-site facility to complete her recovery and to begin physical therapy. The critical part should have been over at that point. When she was moved to the physical rehabilitation facility, COVID had become the hot topic of every day. The shut-down was beginning in our area. I was not allowed to visit her while she was in the new facility. She wasn't allowed to have visitors at all. She would remain there for several weeks, and we would communicate by phone or text. I would never see her alive again. 

Things seemed to be improving. She could get to the bathroom by herself now. Then, she called me one night out of the blue saying that she thought she was dying. Something was wrong. Her blood oxygen level was very low. She made some very bizarre remarks that made it seem like she might be having a psychotic episode. The doctors at the facility did not seem alarmed, and did not provide much information about her condition, nor did they seem to take the situation very seriously. The next morning they did decide to send her back to the ER. She barely made it through the doors of the Emergency Room before she coded. They could not resuscitate her. 

She was not allowed to have calling hours because of COVID. We have a large close knit family, and I had to chose a maximum of ten people to be at her graveside for the funeral.

My mother's passing is the primary reason that I have done almost nothing in the past year. I have been completely overwhelmed with her death, funeral, and estate. It is almost a year later, and I haven't really begun to grieve. 

But wait, there's more...

Due to COVID lock-down, my store was closed through most of the Winter and Spring. We did finally re-open again in June (three months later than we would have). My store clerk, Toni, has health problems of her own. She is the same age as my mom, and can barely walk from her car to the front door without resting. Her doctor didn't want her working at all in June, but she was eager to get back to work for financial reasons. So we started out only opening on weekends, and putting reasonably strict COVID prevention measures in place. No more than 4 people in the shop at a time, no children, masks required, frequent surface and hand sanitization. Despite the very late start, and the economy being in the tank, we actually had a pretty good year, financially. 

Then, in very early December, Toni got sick. Now, it's common for her to get bronchitis once or twice (or thrice) a year, especially when the weather turns cold, so we all hoped for the best, but there was always that fear looming over my shoulder that it could be something much worse. She spent a couple of weeks at home, but her condition did not improve. I told her she should go to the hospital, and that I wasn't going to let her come back to work without a negative COVID test. She dickered around for a few days, and then she finally went in to get tested. She was positive for COVID.

I held out hope, but all of her friends suspected that it was going to end badly. Toni stayed in the hospital for a couple of weeks. I took care of her cats while she was away. Then I got the DM from Toni's daughter that she had been called by the doctors to come up to the hospital (she lives in another state). Toni died just minutes before her daughter arrived in the room. It was the day after Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the longest year of my life.

Toni was like a second mother to me. I had known her since I was six years old. She ran my shop for me for the past ten or so years. Her daughter and I grew up together. To say that I feel more alone now than I have ever felt in my life is an understatement.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. Unlike my mother, who would have absolutely hated the fact that she couldn't have her family at her funeral, Toni was a very private person who didn't want anyone to know she was sick. She didn't want a funeral, or an obituary, or a memorial service. Her daughter had her remains cremated and plans to bury the ashes in secret in a place her mother would have liked. The only remembrance she will get is the small memorial table I have set up for her at the shop, for which I created this memorial book that friends and patrons can use to leave her a final farewell. It is one of the only things I have made in the past year.




The book itself was just a fake moleskin covered blank journal I found at a discount store. The images are ones she would have liked, gleaned from the internet. I etched the covers with my laser cutter. 

Memento Mori is a Latin phrase that means- "Remenber, that someday you too will die." Since my mother's passing almost a year ago, I have thought about little else.



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