A comedian watched her mom die from COVID on an iPad. Her live tweets will break you
In heartbreaking and astonishing detail, comedian and writer Laurie Kilmartin used Twitter to document the final hours of her mother’s life Thursday morning to her 85,000-plus followers. Thousands of people responded with messages of support and sympathy as they accompanied her journey through the loss.
JoAnn Kilmartin died at 9:40 a.m. Thursday after complications from COVID-19, according to the tweets. Laurie Kilmartin is a staff writer for late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien’s show, “Conan.”
After a hospital stay, JoAnn Kilmartin entered a skilled nursing facility and was free of COVID-19 at the time, Laurie Kilmartin said in an account on Twitter. Her mother was diagnosed with COVID-19 after arriving at the facility. Her condition rapidly worsened over the last week, and she developed heart and liver failure.
So I am just watching my mom sleep and cough in her hospital bed, over Facetime, trying to gulp down these last moments having a mom. This is all happening so fast.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 13, 2020
Over the past week, Kilmartin’s Tweets offered a vivid and real-time portrait of losing loved ones to COVID-19. She wrote about saying goodbye with vulnerability and at times, wry humor.
I just left a one-star Yelp review of the skilled nursing facility where Mom caught COVID-19.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 15, 2020
Many of the Tweets read like diary entries, underscoring the unnatural ways people are forced to connect and communicate with their loved ones in hospitals right now, when coronavirus means visitations can be restricted.
The Times’ Christina Schoellkopf describes saying goodbye to her grandfather in hospice care, under the restraints of social distancing.
The experience was mediated by iPad and FaceTime while Laurie and her sister struggled to get visitation access.
In an email to The Times, Laurie Kilmartin said she lives in Burbank, only 17 minutes from the facility where her mother was hospitalized. But Kilmartin was unable to see her mother in person until visitation was granted.
I’m getting so good at asking the nurse to center mom’s face in the iPad frame. “I hate the back wall, more shoulders in the lower third and just... less overhead lights in general.” Does this mean I could direct?— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 17, 2020
I just held an iPad to my chest and wailed, “i love you I love you, I’m sorry, dont leave me,” which is great pratice for when I use this same iPad for post-quar Tinder.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 17, 2020
I keep thinking, I’ve said everything, I’m ok for her to go. Then I think of one more thing and I dive for the iPad, “WAIT NOT YET!”— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 18, 2020
Kilmartin noted her mother’s breathing and appearance in intimate terms, showing the perceivable, outward effects of the disease.
COVID has taken over her lungs, her chest is not rising with breaths, just her throat.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 17, 2020
Mom hasn't had water in a few days and she has cheekbones... to die for.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 17, 2020
She described the negotiation of end-of-life care and the reality of caring for a family member while unable to be at the hospital.
A practical tip/ if your loved one is hospitalized during COVID, you need two phone lines. One for Facetime and one to call the nurse station ask for things like water and chapstick etc.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 14, 2020
Aaaaand we’re on morphine now. When my dad was dying, I said there’s a reason why “morphine” sounds like “more fun” and I stand by that joke.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 13, 2020
COVID hospice routine: Notice mom frowning on Facetime, call the hospital and leave a message for the nurse that she needs more morphine.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 17, 2020
Nurse is stroking mom's hair, which I would be doing if I were there.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 14, 2020
Like many mother-daughter relationships, theirs had been rocky at times, and Kilmartin Tweeted about the amends she made at the end of her mother’s life and joked about their dynamic.
Just told mom that even though we had a rough four years, I love her with my whole heart and... we’re cool now.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 18, 2020
My sister and I are both heartbroken that mom’s last words to us were complaints about the nursing home and not about our appearance.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 18, 2020
She is barely breathing but it would be great if she could awaken from all this and tell me to wash my robe.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 18, 2020
And she added some choice words for those refusing to wear masks during an infectious disease pandemic.
Aubrey, my mom is dying of COVID, I’m watching it right now on Facetime. The palliative care team says her bed will be ready for you in 12-24 hours. See you then! https://t.co/AUBLSjHH5v— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 17, 2020
Yesterday, I spent over an hour in a room full of COVID droplets. A rainforest of corona. Yes, I wore PPE but who knows. If you hate masks and love freedom, DM me your address, because I want to give you a hug!— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 17, 2020
The Newsom administration is requiring Californians wear face coverings as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the state.
The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continues to rise in the country with more than 120,000 deaths so far. Kilmartin’s tweets allowed people to bear witness to the suffering, a small window into the grief that blankets the country. They serve as a reminder of the humanity and the incalculable loss behind each death.
Thank you for sending love to my mom but really it’s my dead dad who needs your thoughts and prayers. I’m sure he thought he’d get a few more years to himself.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 13, 2020
We’re sitting at the kitchen table, the hospital is letting us Facetime with Mom’s body for one final hour. She looks beautiful, next to a window, her cheekbones basking in what little sun there is today in Southern California.— Laurie Kilmartin (@anylaurie16) June 18, 2020
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