12 May This Is What It’s Like To Lose A Loved One During Quarantine
For privacy purposes, I won’t disclose the name of my tita, but I can talk about how she was while she was alive.
Some would call her a distant relative since she was a cousin of my lolo, but those who would probably underestimate how close Filipino families can get. We would see and greet each other during every reunion. She always took the time to remember all our names and ask us how we were.
Although we couldn’t see each other so often, especially when she eventually had to be bedridden due to a lung disease, Tita would always keep us updated on Facebook. Her bubbly personality never wavered in the face of her deteriorating condition, and she would often post fully made-up selfies even just at home with funny captions to make us smile. If she were still alive to this day, I’m pretty sure she would be completely addicted to TikTok.
Most of her friends were her age and older, but she never forgot about planning simple lunches at her house so they could all catch up with each other’s lives. My grandparents aren’t getting any younger with many friends who have passed or are too sick to go out, and these simple gestures from my tita always meant more to me than she ever realized. She was the perfect host up until her death, always making sure her guests were comfortable and entertained for hours. With a personality like that, who could blame her?
She eventually succumbed to her lung disease a few weeks after the ECQ started. Her immediate family was devastated and had to be quarantined in the hospital as well for potential COVID-19 exposure. Her body was kept in a freezer for days, unable to be immediately cremated because her daughters had to wait for the results of her COVID-19 test.
As expected, test results couldn’t be delivered to us right away. My tita’s body had to remain inside the crematorium’s freezer for a full week before cremation could even happen. I can’t imagine the worry and sorrow her daughters went through, being unable to grieve their mom properly because of pandemic protocol in the way.
Eventually, we got her negative results, and she was laid to rest in a peaceful ceremony inside her home. Her whole family was grieving remotely, in our own complicated ways. I finally allowed myself to shed tears for her when my tito based in the US posted a photo of a portrait he drew of her looking young, beautiful, and very much alive.
There is nothing more saddening and disruptive than having to grieve a loved one without a wake. Your prayers don’t feel as communal as you should, and grief that should be shared can feel more isolating without the presence of all your loved ones beside you. If anything, even though she didn’t die of COVID-19, my tita’s passing further reinforced the need in me to stay home, sanitize, and keep my loved ones safe. I wouldn’t wish a loss like this one on anybody, and I hope we get out of this pandemic sooner rather than later, with more than a few family members still intact.