By Elena Hook

My grandma turned 89 on January 18. We joked she would be immortal, but the reality that it was just a joke quickly set in.

On April 16, she had a fever.

On April 19, she was officially diagnosed as positive for the coronavirus.

On April 24, she was dead.  

The day we found out she was sick, my family gathered together at my parent’s house to see her one last time. We said maybe this isn’t the end, but we knew.

We took the drive to her assisted living home, and when we arrived, she was laying in her bed with a mask on, weaker than I’ve ever seen. We weren’t allowed inside for obvious reasons, so we had to say our final goodbyes to her through the window.  

We waved and said we loved her, but nothing felt like it was enough. She was alone and there was nothing we could do about it. We couldn’t hold her hand, give her a hug, or even say goodbye loud enough for her to hear us. We said goodbye like this, and that is how she died – alone.  

We were prepared for her death, but it was still such an emotionally traumatic event that we didn’t know how to handle our grief. We didn’t know that what would come next would be just as hard.

The funeral is meant to be a final goodbye, a love letter to the dead, a celebration of life. My sister and I were scared, we didn’t want what just happened to my grandma to happen to our parents. We begged and pleaded to have an alternative to an in-person funeral, but it didn’t work.  

Photo contributed by Elena Hook.
Elena (right) and her sister (left) stand in front of their grandmother’s casket. The Hook family had a “drive-by funeral” after their grandma died of COVID-19.

Much to our dismay, we had an in-person funeral, but not one people would expect. She was laid out in front of the funeral home, outside their double doors.

QuikTrip sets the scene behind the casket. It was a “drive-by funeral”, where people could roll up, pay their respects, and leave. We all wore masks, standing outside in the chilly April morning. The flowers fell, and it was a symbol of how sad the day would be.  

We stood our distance and said our goodbyes to her last tether on earth, wishing it was different. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen. To be sick alone, die alone, and be buried alone is one of the worst things I could ever imagine.  

After the few people showed up, we did her funeral procession so she could be buried next to my grandfather who preceded her in death by almost 18 years.

We thought we would be able to see her be buried, but once there we were told to stay in our cars, barely seeing the top of the casket from the road in the cemetery. To make it worse one last time, we were told by the cemetery we couldn’t visit her grave for three weeks.  

So, the question is, why did this happen? We don’t know. This virus is powerful. She lived many years of scary, debilitating sicknesses. We grew accustomed to “she’s sick,” but we knew she would recover. But, not this time.  

In the end, there is no moral to this story. This heartbreaking event didn’t teach me anything, but the world can be a scary, cruel place. But there is one takeaway for when this virus is over: hug your loved ones. Tell them you love them. Go see them one more time. I wish I had.