Our Year: 1 Out of 530,000

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S1: Hi. Hi. Hey, Mary Scott.

S2: This past year has been a lot of things for all of us going into, you know, what I lost and covered this year.

S3: But when I think about what we all have in common, it’s loss. We all lost something during this pandemic.

S1: I lost the of experience of a workplace. I feel like the virus just weaseled its way into our room, planting seeds of doubt and fear.

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S4: I lost my best and only friend, my dog.

S1: I have a great sense of loss for who I was as a person. I’m a small business owner, basically at a 65 percent loss in my business, so struggling to get by our family.

S5: We do weekly dinners every week on Wednesday and it’s all very scary. Shut it. And I can physically see the pain on my grandmother’s face.

S6: We lost money. We lost time. A lot of us lost people to 16 April.

S7: A dear close friend, Joan, we’ve been friends since childhood. She died of chokin 3rd of May. My great Aunt Nellie, she was more of a mother to me than my own mother. And I miss her every day. Twenty eighth of July, James.

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S4: He didn’t die though. He’s a first or was a first responder. He is now a long mother. I guess when I think about what I lost, first and foremost, my mom and the opportunity to tell her that she did good with me and that she she set me on the right path and time, I lost time.

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S3: Counting up everything we’ve lost can feel enormous, overwhelming. More than half a million Americans are just gone. Today on the show, we’re going to tell you the story of just one person who has lost a mother, an aunt, a friend, a Mary Harris you’re listening to what next? Stick with us.

S6: As the anniversary of this pandemic lockdown approached all of us on the what next team fanned out looking to talk to the people we loved about what we’d just been through, what we’re still going through, really. We recorded these chats because we wanted to chronicle the sheer breadth of what we lost this year. We talked to the people who took care of us, the people who disappeared from our lives without warning, the family we shut ourselves in with.

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S8: I have a very. Big, wonderful extended family. My mom is one of 13 kids, 13, yes, 13 year old style Catholic family.

S6: Alicia Montgomery, Slate’s executive producer of podcasts, spoke with her cousin Yvonne. After listening to all the conversations we recorded. It was the one between Alicia and Yvonne. We wanted to share most of all. Both of these women have spent the year looking out for all their older relatives.

S8: So we have a lot of older black people in our family with pre-existing health conditions. I also have cousins and other family members who are in jobs that are considered essential. So it was very clear to me early on that. You know, we would be lucky to get through the covid crisis without anybody getting seriously ill and without us losing anyone, Alicia’s family wasn’t as lucky as they would have liked her cousin.

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S6: Yvonne lost her mother to covid earlier this year. And their family, when someone dies, Alicia’s used to just going over their house, eating, telling stories, but one of the things this pandemic took from all of us was rituals like this.

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S8: The togetherness is a big part of healing. You know, the informal togetherness just sitting in each other’s houses and hugging each other’s kids or parents and sharing old stories. And we couldn’t do that. We couldn’t do that for my Aunt Trini’s. So I couldn’t just be in a room with a Yvonne for a day, just chit chatting.

S6: So instead, Alicia called her cousin Yvonne up.

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S9: My mom used to babysit you and you were very little. And she was a teenager, right?

S10: That is correct. My sister Janine and I would go to our grandparents house because your mom and my dad are siblings. So little Aunt Joan, good old Uncle Charles. How about that?

S9: So we’re going to be talking about your mom, Aunt Bernice, a.k.a. more came my lie to you for this to me. So I wanted to ask you, when was the first time you started to hear about covid?

S11: And how your mom’s first started here about covid, I just remember the week of March 30, mom had gone to the store and she used to love broccoli, coleslaw, and she told me, she said, we want to combine any broccoli coleslaw anywhere. I was like, okay, mom, don’t worry about that. I was like, you, okay? So I had gone to the store that Sunday, which would have been the 15th of March, and we had gone to Whole Foods and he had some broccoli coleslaw and we got on the Beltway. And I’ll never forget the Beltway was so deserted on a Sunday morning, about 11 o’clock, it reminded me of. September 11, after the terrorist had hit, that’s what the the Beltway reminded me of. And so when I think of Kobe, those are some of my first very vivid memories of Kobe. It is to have a life. It changed. But didn’t know how much it would change later.

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S12: I remember you started worrying about covid on your mom’s behalf before she did. Can you talk a little bit about what it was like to talk to her about covid at first?

S10: Well, talking to me about it, it was like. For me, it wasn’t here. So. We would just touch on it and.

S11: Again, because it wasn’t here, I don’t think that more focused on it, but I was just so. I was concerned about covid, and I needed to ensure that I was being careful and I needed to be safe because I wanted to make sure that my parents would be OK. That was my whole thing, is just one parents be OK.

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S13: And I just.

S10: I don’t know how it happened, I just know that it happened, that contract that Kofod.

S14: I think my heart dropped the third.

S10: But. Was merciful, my spirit wasn’t troubled, I was very encouraged, my symptoms. Were displayed and we responded within 48 hours, so I was encouraged by that.

S15: There was nothing to indicate that. My mom wouldn’t get through this.

S10: My spirit was whose call I was blessed in that regard. Talk to my mom on the phone those first couple of days and everything. Her first question always was, how are you doing? But I’ll never forget that first day on the 19th. Her mom was so bossy. She was so more the 19th in the 20th. She was just as bossy. And I was good with that. It made life just changed. I call on the phone. She was gasping for air, trying to talk to her and I was like, why not just don’t talk? I was like, just listen. I’m just calling to tell you that I love you.

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S15: She said, OK. Conversation short. She hung up that Thursday at 8:00 and gave my mom at all. And then at Friday. May 29. How was it work?

S10: Anthony called them by phone. Whitney was talking and fighting back tears, and I was like, what is it? What’s going on? And then she just broke down and told me that the doctor said that. I had taken a turn.

S16: And there was nothing more that they could do.

S10: They could put her on a ventilator, but it would just prolong the inevitable. Was once hatefilled. Janine explained to me that my lungs had turned into like jelly.

S16: And that if she went on a ventilator.

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S10: The doctor had said to me, you know, with this life, you know what this is like, you’ve seen it, you know what happens that marwick continue to be poked and prodded.

S16: You know, she wouldn’t have any peace. Issue, transition data display.

S10: And so the decision was made.

S17: So the doctors gave Yvonne a choice, she could come in and say goodbye to her niece in person or she could do a video call. You know, this is this is part of where life gets complicated because Yvonne is a caretaker for my Uncle Charles. And so she did not want to take the chance that she would end up losing both of her parents.

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S10: So.

S17: She decided Yvonne decided to to spend the last few moments with my Aunt Denise on this on this video call on a screen.

S10: We get to see more.

S16: She her oxygen.

S10: Is somewhat of a hood on to keep additional support for oxygen, so her voice was. Muffled somewhat. And as we shared and talk with mom, we were blessed to tell her that she had been the best mom for me in the. I think it’s time that we have an. We told mom we loved her, and even though her voice was muffled, it wasn’t my fault when she said she loved us. She said, I love you. I love you. The court was sure she was tired. She wanted to rest. My dad, about 1:00 or 1:00 p.m., it was quick because that was my concern. I was like, well, how long will it be? The doctor said, we don’t know. It could be quick. It could be long. You could take it could be a couple of hours. It could be a day or so. We don’t know. But it was quick. My transition started his life so quick. Her body was exhausted. She was tired, her son, it was done on this earth. So fast forward to today, I get angry when I think about the people who have died from covid because I believe that some of it was unnecessary.

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S15: Had the Trump administration, and that will be one of the only times that I would mention his name because I referred to him as the impeached knucklehead. Had he done his job instead of being selfish? Self-centered. It’s lacking compassion. Had he done his job? It was honest. I’m not saying that my mother wouldn’t be here, but she might and all the other people who have gone on.

S10: Over four hundred and fifty thousand people died in the United States on his watch. She makes me want to curse the good news is.

S15: That.

S10: They know more, they may deal with more contract carpet, and that’s the blessing. And I’m grateful for that, even though my not physically here, I have more joyful days than I have days.

S13: I’m just grateful. Oh, on I, I really wish that it were entirely safe for us just to be in a room. And just so I could give you a hug.

S10: That day is coming. And I’m looking forward to it, I will never, ever again in my life take too much for granted.

S13: Oh, yes, oh, gosh, you OK?

S18: Because I’m I’m OK, I, I’m supposed to tell you to do something with buttons and stuff for this recorded and I’m trying to remember what that was.

S19: Yvonne Tellman is the cousin of Alicia Montgomery, Slate’s executive producer of Podcast’s.

S20: Before we go, I have a favor to ask, I want to know if you’re making plans for what you’ll do once you get a vaccine. Who are you going to hug first? Are you going to travel? What are you going to do with your hair? Tell us what’s on your mind. Give a call to zero two eight eight eight two five eight eight. We will be back with our third and final episode of our year. Tomorrow, we’ll be talking about the future of the coronavirus. A very special thank you to everyone we spoke to for this series.

S21: Hi, Anthony, it’s Elena. Oh, Alina, forgive me.

S20: My name is Vicky Small, April Chinari, Daniel Lario, Sarah Holmer, Olivia Huet.

S18: You’re my sister. And that’s the show.

S20: What Next is produced by Mary Wilson. Davis Land. Kamal Dilshad, Daniel Hewett and Elina Schwartz were led by Allison Benedict and Alicia Montgomery. And I’m Mary Harris. I’ll catch you back here tomorrow.