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little did we know

We’re back. Kinda. It’s been a hell of a few weeks.

But a particular kind of hell for Laura, as she just lost her mother.

It was sudden.

It was unimaginable.

It was absolutely heartbreaking.

Still is, to be honest.

Rewind a few weeks. Laura and I were struggling with what to write long before her mom got sick. We wrote and wrote and wrote. Nothing felt right. Turns out it’s hard to write a humorous blog in the middle of a pandemic. The memes stopped feeling funny. Our stories seemed inappropriate. And while we fancy ourselves light-hearted people by nature and recognize that laughter is usually the best medicine, it just didn’t feel like we could carry on with business as usual. It all felt wrong.

So, we decided to pause and take it all in. Little did we know that our definition of taking it all in was about to drastically change. And that’s when something almost unbelievable happened. OK, something completely unbelievable happened.

Laura’s mom contracted Covid-19.

We began hoping against hope.

We prayed.

We bargained.

We rubbed pink tourmaline rocks that claimed to hold healing powers.

But sometimes it’s just not enough.

While grieving, we’ve decided to write. And by we, we mean Angie and Laura’s daughter, Ellie. We’re writing this post as a tribute to Laura’s mom and our hope is that we all get a glimpse of a special person this world lost too soon. And to remind us that the horrific statistics that flash across our television screens each night are so much more than that.

E: hi angie, it’s ellie

E: maybe next week I could write a blog post with you

E: for my mom and my mamu

A: oh ellie, i just love that idea

A: how do u envision it?

A: maybe a tribute?

E: i can tell a little bit about my mamu’s life

E: but maybe it’s more about this particular grief we’re experiencing

E: about losing someone in this weird time

A: it’s so thoughtful

A: your mom is going to love this

A: let’s do it

My Mamu, my mom’s mom, was a special person. If I had to describe her in one word it would be “constant.” By that I mean she was steadfast; I never had to worry if she was listening - she always was. I never had to wonder whether she would be on time for our dinner dates - she always was. She was not only always there, but always present, and paying attention. Professionally a therapist and personally a romantic, she was someone who would ask a question and remember what you said, no matter how trivial the topic. The details of the lives of those around her really mattered to her, people and human connection really mattered to her. And if I had to choose a second word it would be “hungry.” The woman ate with her head down and only came up for air when her plate was clean. I loved that so much about her.

I loved so many things about her. It’s hard to express that in a few paragraphs, to feel that I’m giving her the tribute she deserves. But I think I’ll save those extra sentiments for the letter I’m composing for my grandfather, and keep those just between us.

For some reason, I keep revisiting the memory I have of her walking up our driveway, back hunched just slightly for balance, a huge smile on her face, electric blue eyeliner and her arms already outstretched in hug position before she even made it to the front door. I can’t believe she’ll never walk into our home with a bag of potato knishes and her favorite back pillow again. None of this feels real right now, and I don’t know if it ever will. But honestly, I don’t really want it to.

Trying to process the loss of my beloved Mamu, this woman who was so full of life and love and strength up until the very end, would be hard on any day in any weather. But in these circumstances, our grief has been exacerbated full-fold. We can’t celebrate her life surrounded by her loved ones, hold each other’s hands and share stories. Memorializing her through a screen feels cold. Not only that, but Mamu hated technology. She hated her phone and her computer - I can’t even start with the number of voicemails I have on my phone that begin with “I wish I was looking at your face right now, but since you’re such a busy girl, this mechanical message will have to do…” and then delve into her review of a book or thoughts on a movie or recap of her day. It wouldn’t feel right to put her to rest through a screen.

And that’s just the remembrance part of it. There are countless other integral moments that are vital to the grieving process of a loved one, moments that those who lose someone to Covid-19 are robbed of. Not being allowed to go to Mamu’s apartment in the city to pick out an outfit for her burial because of the danger in their contaminated apartment was unfathomable to us and impossibly unfair. Mamu loved her clothes so much, she loved getting dressed up, but we weren’t able to give that to her one last time.

Losing my Mamu to Covid-19 has been so hard, and made so much harder by the understanding that more than 150,000 families worldwide are going through this traumatic version of grief, too. Living with my mom during this time, through my Mamu’s sickness and then her dying, feels like so much. It’s hard to watch my mom sit in so much sadness and feeling powerless because I feel so sad too. I lost my grandma, and she lost her mom. There is no consolation good enough.

The once hilarious viral Cardi B “Coronavirus” video isn’t funny to me anymore. I feel a little less enthused about getting out of the house, less eager for this quarantine to end, less optimistic about what’s to come, knowing that she won’t be living out there with us when it’s all over. The outside world feels more bleak and less desirable without her in it. And when I consider how many people are feeling the same way due to their own losses of loved ones, this grief takes on a whole new meaning. I’m grieving for the world and way of life as I knew it, as we all knew it, before this virus. And I guess it’s easy to look back on the world before Corona as having been better than it really was. Of course it was flawed, and scary, and full of hardship. It was an imperfect world and life before Coronavirus. But my Mamu was in it.

This pandemic is changing our lives in so many ways. That we know for sure. We’ve lost an unimaginable number of human lives, including one special woman who will forever remain close to our hearts.

Truth is, there’s an element of grief to the discomfort we’re all feeling because at this point in time, the entire world is inextricably intertwined in one form or another. The entire world has lost something or someone. The economy is crumbling, the death tolls are continuing to climb and then there’s the seemingly never-ending confinement to our homes, the self-isolation. It’s all a kind of grief that’s hard to bear and hard to understand.

Bound by the quarantine, it’s nearly impossible to console a friend who needs consoling.

Feels like all you can do is organize dinners, and even those have to be delivered by strangers.

There are no hugs.

There are no family gatherings.

There are no words.

Because when your friend says ‘I just miss her’ or ‘I wasn’t ready’ or ‘I woke up this morning and forgot for a minute, but then I remembered,’ there’s nothing to say. There’s not even an opportunity to sit next to her so she feels a little less alone.

So for now, during this extremely hard-to-navigate moment, we’re going to pause and grieve and spend a moment honoring all the lives lost, with particular attention to one - Linda Zeligman Freilich. Here’s to the woman who gave us the gift of Laura and Ellie and the rest of her gang. To the woman whose metabolism we envy, whose compassion we admire and whose legacy we covet. To someone who made the world a better place just by being in it.


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