Our Thanksgiving will be much different this year due to COVID. Many of you have followed our saga of relocating my mother-in-law, we call her “Great Bagda”, from Ohio to Florida in 2019 shortly after her husband passed away. We are not sure how it happened, but our first granddaughter began calling me Bagda (no idea what that even sounds like) when she was first learning to speak, so Great Grandma was happy to be “Great Bagda.”

“Great Bagda” has loved being “Great Bagda.” She loved moving to Florida and finally getting to meet all her greats and being here to see the last two be born. I do not want to paint too rosy of a picture because at the same time we would often hear her say, “That’s too many kids and too much noise for me, why did my grandsons have so many kids?”

Between her arrival to Florida in October 2019 and the COVID shutdown on March 15, 2020, we had many wonderful family events and celebrations. The picture you see is from a Christmas party and Great Bagda enjoyed Santa more than any of her great-grandchildren. New routines were developed within our family: pizza nights at her ALF, her grandsons taking their children over for Sunday morning visits, and having her be part of our Sunday night family dinners. You get the picture, Great Bagda quickly became a big part of each of our lives and added a dimension to her grandsons’ lives they had not had since their “Pappy” died in 2016.

We were so happy to have the generation of “Greats” sitting at our dinner table with us. Then COVID hit and everything changed literally overnight. Fear, worry, concern, and quarantine. At first, it did not seem like it was going to be so long without visits. However, days became weeks, then weeks became months. It would be summer until we were able to have a balcony visit and speak and see each other from a distance in person. Great Bagda went from March 15, 2020 until September 20, 2020 without a face-to-face visit with family.

The quarantine took a toll on Great Bagda’s mental and physical health. Daily phone calls often had her telling us, “I don’t know if I can stand sitting in this room another day.” Fortunately, we had our home health aides coming in several days each week to provide companionship, personal care, and some home-cooked meals. Without her private duty home health aides coming in to stay with her for the day, her socialization would have been limited to the few minutes of conversation with the nurse dispensing her daily medications and her once-a-week scheduled shower visit.

This Thanksgiving we will not have Great Bagda with us to celebrate. We will never know for sure how she contracted COVID living in quarantine. We believe it was one random visit by a health care worker not using a mask. Dying with COVID is not what you wish on anyone, it is a tough virus that effects many parts of your body. In her situation it initially looked like she was having a stroke, however, we now know it was a COVID coagulation issue that mimicked stroke-like symptoms. Great Bagda survived her time on the ventilator but not the effects of the stroke caused by COVID. Death did not come quickly. We can only trust her medical providers when they assure us that she did not know what was happening and was not feeling any pain.

This Thanksgiving we are encouraging everyone to wear a mask and think about their exposure to COVID, even with family. Even though many folks say they would rather die than remain isolated and quarantined you wonder if this is the way they would choose to die. Death does not happen quickly with COVID and affects individuals in so many ways.

We are grateful for our one year of having Great Bagda with us, the adventures, get-togethers, and love we shared. It is a saga none of us will forget and we will be especially thankful as we sit around the table this holiday season.