Lori Ann Wood

@loriannwood | contributor
My heart journey began in November 2015. I almost died from heart failure from an unknown cause: severe idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. I soon learned I had an EF of 8% and spent 14 days in the hospital, most of it in ICU, as doctors tried to save my life. All of this despite having no risk factors, no family history, low blood pressure, low cholesterol levels, and a recent medical evaluation declaring that I had less than 3% chance of ever developing heart disease. I was emergency flighted to Cleveland Clinic and became their most critical patient for 16 months. During that time I wore a Life Vest external defibrillator, carefully titrated my meds to maximum dosages, and virtually eliminated sodium from my diet. I was eventually implanted with a Biventricular CRT-D, a combination pacemaker/internal defibrillator. Against all medical odds, my EF was restored on March 27, 2017. I have had setbacks since, physically, and even spiritually. But this disease has given me the opportunity to write and encourage others on the divine detours of life. If you, too, are on a path you didn't choose, I'd love for you to join me in the journey. Read more at https://loriannwood.com.
Lori Ann Wood

Congestive Heart Failure Warning Signs and Symptoms

“Welcome to Maggie’s Flower Shop!” The banner was artfully hand-lettered and decorated, hung on the patio, waiting for the second grade gardeners to arrive. My daughter loved helping me with flowers and plants, and I was flattered that she asked for this birthday party when she turned 7. I worked weeks to purchase tiny clay pots and seed packets, mini gardening tools and potting aprons. I prepared flower treats and garden games. I even finished ahead of schedule that afternoon, but then I heard the worst sound: a crack of thunder. I ran outside to see a menacing sky and super-sized raindrops starting to fall. With less than two hours until guests arrived, my mind raced. Where would we have the party? This potting party promised to be messy and nothing was planned for indoors. I called my friend for advice. “What does your garage look like?” she asked. We both knew the answer. It was a crammed-full hiding hole for everything my family of five thought we might want “someday.” But this determined mom knew what I had to do, so I worked feverishly to move, clean and arrange the entire garage by myself to beat the after school party deadline. About an hour in, I realized I was completely out of breath; my heart was pumping strangely hard inside my chest, unable to relax. An odd pulling sensation caught my attention near my left arm. A tinge of concern popped up on my radar, but I instantly shrugged it off as being an older mom, thinking, “Well, raising a third child sure is different from the first time around.” A seed was covered by the dirt of ignorance. Although that was my first real indication of a problem, it wasn’t my last hint. As a work-from-home mom, I taught college business courses in the evenings. I thought my heart pounding ferociously was what everyone else described as their “heart beating out of their chest” amid the fear of public speaking. It happened every class as I began to teach. I started to expect it. The seed began to germinate in the darkness. When my oldest entered high school, parents attended the first day of school with their students. Dressed in my coolest (and daughter-approved) mom attire, I struggled noticeably to climb the stairs to the second floor between classes. Other parents sailed past me on both sides while my daughter waited at the top of the stairs. I vowed to get in better shape before this time next year. A sprout began to emerge from the soil of the everyday. Then on the family mission trip to Mexico, we took a day to visit pyramids. People my parents’ age were scaling the monuments while I simply could not. I attributed it to the altitude. My marathon-running husband whispered to me at the site, “Something is wrong here. You should see a doctor.” I rolled my eyes and directed him and my athletic daughter and son to go up to the top, and I took their pictures from below. The weed had grown leaves behind the excuses. The next year, our bucket list trip to the Grand Canyon was marred when I almost did not make it back from a very short descent into the canyon. I took two steps at a time and stopped, shaking, praying to just make it up to the parking lot. My family started suspecting something was seriously wrong. I blamed it on the few extra pounds I had gained in my 40s. I was disappointed with myself that I wasn’t down to the weight I wanted to be. Still, I was not overweight and it concerned me that many others heavier than me were enjoying the hike and looking at me sympathetically. The irritating weed was beginning to form roots. During the summer, I decided to do a “Couch to 5K” with my daughter, as a surprise to my husband. Envisioning us as fit, running, empty-nesters one day, I printed the schedule and mapped out my course. The first time I jogged 25 yards, my heart beat uncontrollably. I gasped and coughed to breathe. I tried to take it slower, I tried to walk it. I convinced myself I was too out of shape for the plan. So I quit. The ugly growth had developed to maturity. Three months later I nearly died from heart failure: idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. After a week of what I thought was the flu, I finally made an appointment with my doctor. I will never forget my doctor’s words as he prepared to read the chest x-ray, “If we’re lucky, it’s pneumonia.” It wasn’t. My enlarged heart earned me a direct admit to cardiac intensive care. My heart’s ejection fraction was a pitiful 8 percent (normal is 55-70 percent). I spent 14 days in the hospital, most of it in ICU, before being taken by emergency air transport to the Cleveland Clinic where I was given less than 10 percent chance of surviving six months. I became their most critical patient for a year and a half. I have since been implanted with a pacemaker and internal defibrillator and put on an extremely low sodium diet and extensive heart medications. Heart failure is a chronic, progressive disease. My condition is incurable. For most, doctors can manage the symptoms, for some they can slow the progression. However, treatment is more effective when the condition is discovered early. Mine was ignored.Mine was explained away and joked about as a mid-life normalcy.Mine was piled underneath mounds of laundry and kids’ soccer schedules.Mine was covered by excuses and stubbornness. Today as I reflect on the years of subtle knowing, the years that seed grew unnamed beneath the surface, remorse hangs heavy in the air. I feel guilty for the limited life I now have to offer my children and my husband. I feel cheated of the dreams I wanted to achieve. The good news is that my life story was never meant to be read by me alone. It was always an open book, on free loan, to anyone interested in learning. So I offer this nugget of hard-won wisdom as I look back at the holidays, celebrations, vacations and everyday events. Don’t let the immediacy of today’s needs rob you of the wealth of tomorrow. It is better to be a living hypochondriac than a dead silent sufferer. Do what is right for your family and for yourself. Listen to the people who love you. And listen to your body, even when you have no idea what it’s saying. One gardening task my daughter and I shared was pulling weeds. If we didn’t remove them as soon as we noticed them, the menacing sprouts became bigger and more established and soon took root. We even had some weeds become trees right under our noses because we missed them. Don’t ignore the little weeds that pop up in your life, whether they are in your marriage, in your emotional health, or in your physical health. Get help to understand the warnings of trouble ahead. They can grow, secretly and silently, into something you can’t fix. Give yourself the grace you extend to others, grace that has already been gloriously offered to you. Grace to step back, to take care of yourself, to be less than everything. And grace for the times you didn’t. I had no idea that heart disease is the number one killer of women, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined. But I learned that the only self-exam for heart disease, or any peril that threatens our lives, is awareness. Awareness requires a willingness to expose the seeds of trouble. To remove the weeds of self-sufficiency. My daughter’s gardening party was a success. She has a heart full of childhood birthday memories. She considers the parties themselves one of her best gifts. But I could have given her an even greater gift — if only I had uprooted that tiny seedling years ago.

Lori Ann Wood

Extracting Empathy From a Painful Pandemic

All my growing up years, I had a classmate whose family’s religious convictions kept her from attending field trips and class parties. Something I didn’t understand as a kid, but it was filed alongside dozens of other adult things I didn’t understand. So somehow, I just considered it outside my sphere of knowing, and I was fine with that. In fourth grade, our highly anticipated and much-discussed class trip to the zoo was cancelled because of rain. I remember glancing at this classmate after the announcement, and realizing this had been her disappointment every time, year after year. I wish I could say after that day I saw special class events through her eyes, that I made an effort to include her during every day recess, that I expressed a renewed gratitude for my own freedoms. I did none of those things. This pandemic has caused me to recall my classmate and that ill-fated zoo field trip. Except this time, the tables have turned. I’ve been the restricted one. And the rest of the freedom-loving world have had all their parties and field trips cancelled. Over the past year life has slowed down to meet me, and honestly, as a person dealing with chronic illness, something about that felt a little right (did my classmate secretly celebrate when she didn’t have to spend the field trip day in the library alone?). Granted, COVID dealt me a full share of disappointments: 10 months without seeing my young adult children, cancelled graduations and family vacations, my husband suffering through COVID, burying both parents without proper funerals. But even with all of that heartache, I am somewhat resistant to a return to life as it was. To be fair, not much of my own life will change on the other side of the pandemic. Although most of the world is anxious to lift the rules that restricted activity, many of us know that precious little will actually improve in our medically-limited lives. With congestive heart failure, I rolled back my life and expectations years ago. What did change during the pandemic is that my family, my friends, and my community started to look a little more like me. Gatherings were unattended, physical meetings were missed, meals were prepared and eaten at home, shopping happened only online, more sleep took the place of daily commutes. Life decelerated into my slow lane. While most of the world suffered through these COVID limitations and cancellations, I have felt understood. I have felt camaraderie. I have felt seen. Not unlike my classmate must have felt as the entire class remained at school that field trip day. So, in ways I may never admit in public, I will miss this repulsive pandemic that seemed to level us all. And I feel a little worried about the heroic vaccine rollout breaking up the club. What happens when we go back to the way we were? Will we be the way we were? Some of us will continue to live with illness surrounding and driving our lives. We will still be missing all the field trips. And we wouldn’t wish our prolonged limitations on everyone. But what about the healthy population who has temporarily dipped their toe into our world? Will the fit and well have more empathy for those of us who struggle every day? Will those with unlimited options remember people forced to make calculated daily choices? Will healthy calendars return to 110% capacity, or will they clear space for the rest that afforded balanced conversation? Will a more manageable pace be the norm, or will the mainstream world move at even greater speed to make up for lost time? The COVID-19 pandemic has been ugly, and ruthless, and I will do my part to end it as soon as possible. But not everything about it will seem a good riddance. So, as the world morphs back into its former self, I’m calling on the healthy world to rectify the shortcomings of my fourth grade self: To ensure that the illness that ran rampant through our communities and homes will leave behind a trail of empathy for those who live every day with limitations. To see that we never over-expect of those who suffer in ways we cannot see, or understand. To remember it takes something as small as a virus particle or a few raindrops to put us all on the same global playing field.

Lori Ann Wood

Extracting Empathy From a Painful Pandemic

All my growing up years, I had a classmate whose family’s religious convictions kept her from attending field trips and class parties. Something I didn’t understand as a kid, but it was filed alongside dozens of other adult things I didn’t understand. So somehow, I just considered it outside my sphere of knowing, and I was fine with that. In fourth grade, our highly anticipated and much-discussed class trip to the zoo was cancelled because of rain. I remember glancing at this classmate after the announcement, and realizing this had been her disappointment every time, year after year. I wish I could say after that day I saw special class events through her eyes, that I made an effort to include her during every day recess, that I expressed a renewed gratitude for my own freedoms. I did none of those things. This pandemic has caused me to recall my classmate and that ill-fated zoo field trip. Except this time, the tables have turned. I’ve been the restricted one. And the rest of the freedom-loving world have had all their parties and field trips cancelled. Over the past year life has slowed down to meet me, and honestly, as a person dealing with chronic illness, something about that felt a little right (did my classmate secretly celebrate when she didn’t have to spend the field trip day in the library alone?). Granted, COVID dealt me a full share of disappointments: 10 months without seeing my young adult children, cancelled graduations and family vacations, my husband suffering through COVID, burying both parents without proper funerals. But even with all of that heartache, I am somewhat resistant to a return to life as it was. To be fair, not much of my own life will change on the other side of the pandemic. Although most of the world is anxious to lift the rules that restricted activity, many of us know that precious little will actually improve in our medically-limited lives. With congestive heart failure, I rolled back my life and expectations years ago. What did change during the pandemic is that my family, my friends, and my community started to look a little more like me. Gatherings were unattended, physical meetings were missed, meals were prepared and eaten at home, shopping happened only online, more sleep took the place of daily commutes. Life decelerated into my slow lane. While most of the world suffered through these COVID limitations and cancellations, I have felt understood. I have felt camaraderie. I have felt seen. Not unlike my classmate must have felt as the entire class remained at school that field trip day. So, in ways I may never admit in public, I will miss this repulsive pandemic that seemed to level us all. And I feel a little worried about the heroic vaccine rollout breaking up the club. What happens when we go back to the way we were? Will we be the way we were? Some of us will continue to live with illness surrounding and driving our lives. We will still be missing all the field trips. And we wouldn’t wish our prolonged limitations on everyone. But what about the healthy population who has temporarily dipped their toe into our world? Will the fit and well have more empathy for those of us who struggle every day? Will those with unlimited options remember people forced to make calculated daily choices? Will healthy calendars return to 110% capacity, or will they clear space for the rest that afforded balanced conversation? Will a more manageable pace be the norm, or will the mainstream world move at even greater speed to make up for lost time? The COVID-19 pandemic has been ugly, and ruthless, and I will do my part to end it as soon as possible. But not everything about it will seem a good riddance. So, as the world morphs back into its former self, I’m calling on the healthy world to rectify the shortcomings of my fourth grade self: To ensure that the illness that ran rampant through our communities and homes will leave behind a trail of empathy for those who live every day with limitations. To see that we never over-expect of those who suffer in ways we cannot see, or understand. To remember it takes something as small as a virus particle or a few raindrops to put us all on the same global playing field.

Lori Ann Wood

Extracting Empathy From a Painful Pandemic

All my growing up years, I had a classmate whose family’s religious convictions kept her from attending field trips and class parties. Something I didn’t understand as a kid, but it was filed alongside dozens of other adult things I didn’t understand. So somehow, I just considered it outside my sphere of knowing, and I was fine with that. In fourth grade, our highly anticipated and much-discussed class trip to the zoo was cancelled because of rain. I remember glancing at this classmate after the announcement, and realizing this had been her disappointment every time, year after year. I wish I could say after that day I saw special class events through her eyes, that I made an effort to include her during every day recess, that I expressed a renewed gratitude for my own freedoms. I did none of those things. This pandemic has caused me to recall my classmate and that ill-fated zoo field trip. Except this time, the tables have turned. I’ve been the restricted one. And the rest of the freedom-loving world have had all their parties and field trips cancelled. Over the past year life has slowed down to meet me, and honestly, as a person dealing with chronic illness, something about that felt a little right (did my classmate secretly celebrate when she didn’t have to spend the field trip day in the library alone?). Granted, COVID dealt me a full share of disappointments: 10 months without seeing my young adult children, cancelled graduations and family vacations, my husband suffering through COVID, burying both parents without proper funerals. But even with all of that heartache, I am somewhat resistant to a return to life as it was. To be fair, not much of my own life will change on the other side of the pandemic. Although most of the world is anxious to lift the rules that restricted activity, many of us know that precious little will actually improve in our medically-limited lives. With congestive heart failure, I rolled back my life and expectations years ago. What did change during the pandemic is that my family, my friends, and my community started to look a little more like me. Gatherings were unattended, physical meetings were missed, meals were prepared and eaten at home, shopping happened only online, more sleep took the place of daily commutes. Life decelerated into my slow lane. While most of the world suffered through these COVID limitations and cancellations, I have felt understood. I have felt camaraderie. I have felt seen. Not unlike my classmate must have felt as the entire class remained at school that field trip day. So, in ways I may never admit in public, I will miss this repulsive pandemic that seemed to level us all. And I feel a little worried about the heroic vaccine rollout breaking up the club. What happens when we go back to the way we were? Will we be the way we were? Some of us will continue to live with illness surrounding and driving our lives. We will still be missing all the field trips. And we wouldn’t wish our prolonged limitations on everyone. But what about the healthy population who has temporarily dipped their toe into our world? Will the fit and well have more empathy for those of us who struggle every day? Will those with unlimited options remember people forced to make calculated daily choices? Will healthy calendars return to 110% capacity, or will they clear space for the rest that afforded balanced conversation? Will a more manageable pace be the norm, or will the mainstream world move at even greater speed to make up for lost time? The COVID-19 pandemic has been ugly, and ruthless, and I will do my part to end it as soon as possible. But not everything about it will seem a good riddance. So, as the world morphs back into its former self, I’m calling on the healthy world to rectify the shortcomings of my fourth grade self: To ensure that the illness that ran rampant through our communities and homes will leave behind a trail of empathy for those who live every day with limitations. To see that we never over-expect of those who suffer in ways we cannot see, or understand. To remember it takes something as small as a virus particle or a few raindrops to put us all on the same global playing field.

Lori Ann Wood

Funerals During a Pandemic: What No One Is Talking About

I buried both of my parents during the COVID pandemic. My father passed away after a long battle with lung cancer in early July. Then my mother suddenly died from cardiac issues less than four months later. Though neither had ever been diagnosed with COVID, the disease affected their passing and the aftermath in ways no one could have foreseen. The funerals took place so close together and looked so much alike, they almost seem like one event. My parents had lived and worked and served in their small community for over four decades, but the risk from the pandemic forced us to choose family-only funerals and burials for both my mother and my father. Though we never even considered having a large gathering for our own safety and that of the community, the emotional impact manifested for their four children in many unexpected ways. Now, in addition to missing our parents, we have missed so much more. 1. We missed the physical touch of others on the day of their deaths through the burial. No neighbors held my hand as they wheeled Daddy’s body from the house. No church members hugged my shoulders as I first glimpsed Mom in her casket. 2. We missed extended family reuniting. No relatives came in from out of town, and we wanted it that way. But we didn’t anticipate the pain from not seeing Mom’s favorite niece or my dad’s only sibling among the mourners. 3. We missed the untold tales of their lives. The best escapades and recollections only come out in times like these deep memory moments. Now the window of opportunity has passed. Those are the stories we will never hear. 4. We missed the community rituals we’ve come to rely on to start to heal in our society — a noisy visitation, a crowded funeral hall, a house overflowing with lifelong friends. The strength we tend to gain from sheer numbers was reduced to almost nothing. 5. We missed the expressed appreciation and adoration that their children all felt but wanted reinforced and corroborated by others — the expectations of ending two well-lived lives. The few we did come in contact with wore masks (thankfully), which blunted conversation. And with their faces partially covered, it was like getting only 50% of the emotion. 6. We missed the tangible expressions of honor from a community where they had invested their lives — flowers and memorials that weren’t sent because there was no public service. Memories and snapshots of an outpouring of support will not be there to support us in the months and years ahead. 7. We missed the gathering of siblings to touch, reminisce and distribute family heirlooms and personal belongings. With four of us scattered throughout the country, all living in different states with heightened infections, our time together since our parents’ passing has been nonexistent. And our emotional healing has stalled. 8. We missed seeing their graves finalized. COVID delays have kept the headstone we ordered over six months ago from being manufactured and placed at the cemetery. Visiting their scantily marked graves only heightens the feeling of not having had a “real” funeral. Or a “real” loss. The deaths COVID has caused have a direct and devastating impact on their families. Though nothing can diminish that enormous tragedy, the peripheral losses are still being discovered. As a world, we must hold open space for losses we haven’t yet tabulated or verbalized. That sad discovery will be decades unfolding.

Lori Ann Wood

Funerals During a Pandemic: What No One Is Talking About

I buried both of my parents during the COVID pandemic. My father passed away after a long battle with lung cancer in early July. Then my mother suddenly died from cardiac issues less than four months later. Though neither had ever been diagnosed with COVID, the disease affected their passing and the aftermath in ways no one could have foreseen. The funerals took place so close together and looked so much alike, they almost seem like one event. My parents had lived and worked and served in their small community for over four decades, but the risk from the pandemic forced us to choose family-only funerals and burials for both my mother and my father. Though we never even considered having a large gathering for our own safety and that of the community, the emotional impact manifested for their four children in many unexpected ways. Now, in addition to missing our parents, we have missed so much more. 1. We missed the physical touch of others on the day of their deaths through the burial. No neighbors held my hand as they wheeled Daddy’s body from the house. No church members hugged my shoulders as I first glimpsed Mom in her casket. 2. We missed extended family reuniting. No relatives came in from out of town, and we wanted it that way. But we didn’t anticipate the pain from not seeing Mom’s favorite niece or my dad’s only sibling among the mourners. 3. We missed the untold tales of their lives. The best escapades and recollections only come out in times like these deep memory moments. Now the window of opportunity has passed. Those are the stories we will never hear. 4. We missed the community rituals we’ve come to rely on to start to heal in our society — a noisy visitation, a crowded funeral hall, a house overflowing with lifelong friends. The strength we tend to gain from sheer numbers was reduced to almost nothing. 5. We missed the expressed appreciation and adoration that their children all felt but wanted reinforced and corroborated by others — the expectations of ending two well-lived lives. The few we did come in contact with wore masks (thankfully), which blunted conversation. And with their faces partially covered, it was like getting only 50% of the emotion. 6. We missed the tangible expressions of honor from a community where they had invested their lives — flowers and memorials that weren’t sent because there was no public service. Memories and snapshots of an outpouring of support will not be there to support us in the months and years ahead. 7. We missed the gathering of siblings to touch, reminisce and distribute family heirlooms and personal belongings. With four of us scattered throughout the country, all living in different states with heightened infections, our time together since our parents’ passing has been nonexistent. And our emotional healing has stalled. 8. We missed seeing their graves finalized. COVID delays have kept the headstone we ordered over six months ago from being manufactured and placed at the cemetery. Visiting their scantily marked graves only heightens the feeling of not having had a “real” funeral. Or a “real” loss. The deaths COVID has caused have a direct and devastating impact on their families. Though nothing can diminish that enormous tragedy, the peripheral losses are still being discovered. As a world, we must hold open space for losses we haven’t yet tabulated or verbalized. That sad discovery will be decades unfolding.

Lori Ann Wood

Funerals During a Pandemic: What No One Is Talking About

I buried both of my parents during the COVID pandemic. My father passed away after a long battle with lung cancer in early July. Then my mother suddenly died from cardiac issues less than four months later. Though neither had ever been diagnosed with COVID, the disease affected their passing and the aftermath in ways no one could have foreseen. The funerals took place so close together and looked so much alike, they almost seem like one event. My parents had lived and worked and served in their small community for over four decades, but the risk from the pandemic forced us to choose family-only funerals and burials for both my mother and my father. Though we never even considered having a large gathering for our own safety and that of the community, the emotional impact manifested for their four children in many unexpected ways. Now, in addition to missing our parents, we have missed so much more. 1. We missed the physical touch of others on the day of their deaths through the burial. No neighbors held my hand as they wheeled Daddy’s body from the house. No church members hugged my shoulders as I first glimpsed Mom in her casket. 2. We missed extended family reuniting. No relatives came in from out of town, and we wanted it that way. But we didn’t anticipate the pain from not seeing Mom’s favorite niece or my dad’s only sibling among the mourners. 3. We missed the untold tales of their lives. The best escapades and recollections only come out in times like these deep memory moments. Now the window of opportunity has passed. Those are the stories we will never hear. 4. We missed the community rituals we’ve come to rely on to start to heal in our society — a noisy visitation, a crowded funeral hall, a house overflowing with lifelong friends. The strength we tend to gain from sheer numbers was reduced to almost nothing. 5. We missed the expressed appreciation and adoration that their children all felt but wanted reinforced and corroborated by others — the expectations of ending two well-lived lives. The few we did come in contact with wore masks (thankfully), which blunted conversation. And with their faces partially covered, it was like getting only 50% of the emotion. 6. We missed the tangible expressions of honor from a community where they had invested their lives — flowers and memorials that weren’t sent because there was no public service. Memories and snapshots of an outpouring of support will not be there to support us in the months and years ahead. 7. We missed the gathering of siblings to touch, reminisce and distribute family heirlooms and personal belongings. With four of us scattered throughout the country, all living in different states with heightened infections, our time together since our parents’ passing has been nonexistent. And our emotional healing has stalled. 8. We missed seeing their graves finalized. COVID delays have kept the headstone we ordered over six months ago from being manufactured and placed at the cemetery. Visiting their scantily marked graves only heightens the feeling of not having had a “real” funeral. Or a “real” loss. The deaths COVID has caused have a direct and devastating impact on their families. Though nothing can diminish that enormous tragedy, the peripheral losses are still being discovered. As a world, we must hold open space for losses we haven’t yet tabulated or verbalized. That sad discovery will be decades unfolding.

Lori Ann Wood

Funerals During a Pandemic: What No One Is Talking About

I buried both of my parents during the COVID pandemic. My father passed away after a long battle with lung cancer in early July. Then my mother suddenly died from cardiac issues less than four months later. Though neither had ever been diagnosed with COVID, the disease affected their passing and the aftermath in ways no one could have foreseen. The funerals took place so close together and looked so much alike, they almost seem like one event. My parents had lived and worked and served in their small community for over four decades, but the risk from the pandemic forced us to choose family-only funerals and burials for both my mother and my father. Though we never even considered having a large gathering for our own safety and that of the community, the emotional impact manifested for their four children in many unexpected ways. Now, in addition to missing our parents, we have missed so much more. 1. We missed the physical touch of others on the day of their deaths through the burial. No neighbors held my hand as they wheeled Daddy’s body from the house. No church members hugged my shoulders as I first glimpsed Mom in her casket. 2. We missed extended family reuniting. No relatives came in from out of town, and we wanted it that way. But we didn’t anticipate the pain from not seeing Mom’s favorite niece or my dad’s only sibling among the mourners. 3. We missed the untold tales of their lives. The best escapades and recollections only come out in times like these deep memory moments. Now the window of opportunity has passed. Those are the stories we will never hear. 4. We missed the community rituals we’ve come to rely on to start to heal in our society — a noisy visitation, a crowded funeral hall, a house overflowing with lifelong friends. The strength we tend to gain from sheer numbers was reduced to almost nothing. 5. We missed the expressed appreciation and adoration that their children all felt but wanted reinforced and corroborated by others — the expectations of ending two well-lived lives. The few we did come in contact with wore masks (thankfully), which blunted conversation. And with their faces partially covered, it was like getting only 50% of the emotion. 6. We missed the tangible expressions of honor from a community where they had invested their lives — flowers and memorials that weren’t sent because there was no public service. Memories and snapshots of an outpouring of support will not be there to support us in the months and years ahead. 7. We missed the gathering of siblings to touch, reminisce and distribute family heirlooms and personal belongings. With four of us scattered throughout the country, all living in different states with heightened infections, our time together since our parents’ passing has been nonexistent. And our emotional healing has stalled. 8. We missed seeing their graves finalized. COVID delays have kept the headstone we ordered over six months ago from being manufactured and placed at the cemetery. Visiting their scantily marked graves only heightens the feeling of not having had a “real” funeral. Or a “real” loss. The deaths COVID has caused have a direct and devastating impact on their families. Though nothing can diminish that enormous tragedy, the peripheral losses are still being discovered. As a world, we must hold open space for losses we haven’t yet tabulated or verbalized. That sad discovery will be decades unfolding.

Lori Ann Wood

Funerals During a Pandemic: What No One Is Talking About

I buried both of my parents during the COVID pandemic. My father passed away after a long battle with lung cancer in early July. Then my mother suddenly died from cardiac issues less than four months later. Though neither had ever been diagnosed with COVID, the disease affected their passing and the aftermath in ways no one could have foreseen. The funerals took place so close together and looked so much alike, they almost seem like one event. My parents had lived and worked and served in their small community for over four decades, but the risk from the pandemic forced us to choose family-only funerals and burials for both my mother and my father. Though we never even considered having a large gathering for our own safety and that of the community, the emotional impact manifested for their four children in many unexpected ways. Now, in addition to missing our parents, we have missed so much more. 1. We missed the physical touch of others on the day of their deaths through the burial. No neighbors held my hand as they wheeled Daddy’s body from the house. No church members hugged my shoulders as I first glimpsed Mom in her casket. 2. We missed extended family reuniting. No relatives came in from out of town, and we wanted it that way. But we didn’t anticipate the pain from not seeing Mom’s favorite niece or my dad’s only sibling among the mourners. 3. We missed the untold tales of their lives. The best escapades and recollections only come out in times like these deep memory moments. Now the window of opportunity has passed. Those are the stories we will never hear. 4. We missed the community rituals we’ve come to rely on to start to heal in our society — a noisy visitation, a crowded funeral hall, a house overflowing with lifelong friends. The strength we tend to gain from sheer numbers was reduced to almost nothing. 5. We missed the expressed appreciation and adoration that their children all felt but wanted reinforced and corroborated by others — the expectations of ending two well-lived lives. The few we did come in contact with wore masks (thankfully), which blunted conversation. And with their faces partially covered, it was like getting only 50% of the emotion. 6. We missed the tangible expressions of honor from a community where they had invested their lives — flowers and memorials that weren’t sent because there was no public service. Memories and snapshots of an outpouring of support will not be there to support us in the months and years ahead. 7. We missed the gathering of siblings to touch, reminisce and distribute family heirlooms and personal belongings. With four of us scattered throughout the country, all living in different states with heightened infections, our time together since our parents’ passing has been nonexistent. And our emotional healing has stalled. 8. We missed seeing their graves finalized. COVID delays have kept the headstone we ordered over six months ago from being manufactured and placed at the cemetery. Visiting their scantily marked graves only heightens the feeling of not having had a “real” funeral. Or a “real” loss. The deaths COVID has caused have a direct and devastating impact on their families. Though nothing can diminish that enormous tragedy, the peripheral losses are still being discovered. As a world, we must hold open space for losses we haven’t yet tabulated or verbalized. That sad discovery will be decades unfolding.