On November 10, 2020, my father, James Conway, died from complication caused by COVID19. Those complications included sepsis, pneumonia, urinary tract infection. Over the past year, I have had people ask me, “Did your dad have pre-existing complications?” Of course he did, he was 84. My dad had various health conditions, but he went into the hospital to repair his broken hip. What he didn’t have when he entered the hospital was COVID19, pneumonia, sepsis, or a urinary tract infection. My dad broke his hip on September 27. That was the last day my mom and dad saw each other after almost 52 years together. I saw my dad for the last time on October 1, 2020. We were unable to visit him due to a COVID outbreak in his rehabilitation hospital. He died November 10,2020. Alone. Without a loved one there to hold his hand. In a cold room, surrounded by machines, and caring nurses. My dad deserved better. All victims of this pandemic deserved better. The fact that my dad had pre-existing conditions or that he was 84 does not justify his horrific death.
A year ago, I was devastated. My father’s doctor called me the Saturday before he died. She told me my dad told her he was ready to go and he wanted me to make the decision when the time came. He didn’t want to put that on my mom and he wanted me to take care of her. I drove home and prepped my mom. I still held out hope. Our last conversation was via FaceTime and I heard my dad repeat weakly over and over, “I love you” as my mother and I sobbed. Two days later, a doctor called me to let me see my dad before I told them to stop his treatment. I told the to stop treating my dad. To keep him pain free. To tell him he was loved. To end his solitary suffering. To give him peace. It was the most brutal moment of my life getting the call 30 minutes later to say he was gone and to have to relay that to my mom. Even then, I thought it would take more time. My dad went through hell. Alone.
Although we are vaccinated, I made a request that anyone not vaccinated wear a mask to my dad’s funeral and social distance from my mom. I found out later that many in attendance were not vaccinated and hugged my medically compromised mother. After all my family went through, the audacity of people to hug a medically fragile person baffles me. I respect a person’s desire to not get vaccinated, but I truly believe you need to respect those who aren’t medically safe enough to be around you. My father died because people didn’t take all the precautions needed. My father died because there wasn’t a vaccine ready to protect him.
The evolution of grief is a process. I went from shock and sadness, to anger and depression. I posted on facebook a few weeks ago that I am still so angry about my dad’s death. So many people posted that I needed to let the anger go. Hell, my dad would even tell me to move on. I can’t. I won’t. I’m still so mad on a daily basis. My uncle recently called my mom and expressed his anger over my dad’s death. It was so very unfair. My dad was 84. I knew he didn’t have a lot of time left. What infuriates me is the fact he died alone. He died due to the carelessness of others. He died in a place that was supposed to keep him safe. He was robbed of dignity, family, and comfort in his final days. I’m mad because I truly tried to keep my parents safe during the pandemic and I feel like I failed. I know that isn’t logical, but it is how I feel. I’ve gotten through this past year with a lot of therapy, medication, blogging, and determination to keep my promise to my dad to take care of my mom. I still live in fear of accidentally passing the virus to my mom. I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.
In closing, I’m sharing my Eulogy to my dad and a link to the blog I wrote for him a year ago. I chose on that day to focus on my dad’s amazing life over his death. From now on, I will focus on sharing his story so that anyone who works with medically fragile people get vaccinated or make appropriate choices to keep the most fragile among us safe. Get vaccinated or get away from those who need to be protected. I love you dad. You will always be my hero.