For the past year, the pandemic itself hasn’t affected me other than working from home and isolation from people. Which in and of itself is different and hard. But while I knew people who got sick no one close to me has died in the past year.
Except for one person. Her name was Mary Jane Hager. She suffered from a few ailments. COPD, a heart condition, and diabetes. As a result her only time out of the house was to the doctor. Still she managed to catch this virus. She tested positive on Monday last week. Was in ICU Tuesday and Thursday she was gone.
This woman was not related to me in any way … but she was Aunt Jane. I first met her when I was 3 years old. My mother was a single mom and she worked nights. In 1980, night-time child care was hard to come by. Her friend Jane offered to take care of me.
Because mom worked till 11pm every night, Jane saw no reason to wake me up simply to take me home to bed. So I spent a lot of overnights with her family. I became the baby sister to her 3 teenagers, and stole the hearts of every single person in that family, including the extended family – grandparents and great grandparents.
Jane said I wasn’t a 3 year old when she met me. I was a tiny grown-up. So from the first time we met she nicknamed me Midget (it was the 80s …). From that point on … that’s who I was.
My mom married when I was 4 or 5 … and he was not a good man. He was abusive and angry a lot. Jane’s house was a safe haven in those times. She never told anyone what to do … but she would provide whatever support you needed at the time.
She was also a foster mother. She would take newborns and toddlers and help them til they found families. Regardless of the situations. When I was 17, I got pregnant. I knew I couldn’t take care of another human being. I could barely handle myself. Jane talked over my options with me. And let me know she was there no matter what I chose.
I had him January 1996 … and had him for 3 days before I realized I was way over my head. She offered to take him and be his guardian while I found his family. She introduced me to a wonderful woman (Lea) and her husband who were able to take this baby and love him and care for him in ways I wasn’t ready to. It was an open adoption so I am in contact with the family.
Jane went to bat for me when family criticized me for my decisions. She was there for me when people didn’t understand and she knew what I needed. She helped me get my act together and figure out what I needed to do with my life.
She knew everyone and didn’t care what people thought of her. She stood up for what she believed in and even had to spend some jail time for those beliefs. She was protective of people she cared about and had no problem stepping in for anyone.
Next to my mother, this woman was the most important person in my life. I loved her more than I can communicate. Her death has left the biggest hole in my heart. The fact that because of this pandemic we have to find alternative ways to say goodbye makes it hurt more. I know everyone grieves differently … but the thought of just one more time … saying goodbye … I just wish it could happen.