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Letters to the Editor: These readers lost spouses, grieved alone, stayed sober in this pandemic year

Photos of people who died from COVID-19 were part of a memorial in downtown L.A. last August.
Photos of people who died from COVID-19 were part of a memorial in front of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration in downtown Los Angeles last August.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: March 21, 2020, my husband’s birthday, was the day I realized life would forever change. Let me back up a bit to explain. (“A year of COVID-19 has left immeasurable holes in American life,” editorial, March 11)

In November 2019, my husband had his appendix taken out. Unfortunately, he never recovered from the surgery and ended up in a long-term care hospital, where I visited him every day until March 21. On that day, I brought him a birthday cupcake, but the hospital wouldn’t let me in. I cried the whole way home.

Eventually he ended up in a nursing home, where he caught COVID-19 and died on April 26.

We had been married for almost 40 years, and he had taken very good care of me — so good, in fact, that I was left knowing little about our finances. At the time all the banks were closed and not even taking phone calls.

Mourning during a pandemic is very lonely. There has been no one to hug me or to come over and console me. My husband’s memorial service was online, and it was beautifully done by my granddaughter, son and daughter-in-law. Friends from all over the country were able to attend.

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Now, having been vaccinated and with the first anniversary of my husband’s death approaching, I am at peace. I look forward to scattering his ashes in Yosemite, a sacred place to both of us.

Carolyn Young, Glendale

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To the editor: March 3, 2020, was the 40th wedding anniversary for my wife, Beverly, and me, but circumstances prevented us from celebrating.

Two days later, Bev, a Type 1 diabetic, woke up with extremely high sugar levels that were not going down with the help of her insulin pump. I brought her to the emergency room, where she had a heart attack.

On March 7, after all attempts to bring her heart back to normal failed, I let her go. Our society shut down a week later, so I was left with her ashes on a shelf in our home.

That’s how my year in the pandemic started.

I read a lot of books and pamphlets on grieving, but what I could not find was a book titled “Grieving in a Pandemic.” Support during this time was available only with group therapy via Zoom (ugh) or with a psychologist over the phone (ugh again). Eventually, the psychologist agreed to meet me in his office.

We had no children, so I have been learning to live on my own after 40 years. It’s been a long year. I still have Bev’s ashes. Many friends have been supportive, but only one or two are willing to get together safely.

I am 73 years old and take all the precautions to keep myself safe from COVID-19, but I miss the support, calm and wisdom that Bev brought to my life. The road of grief that I am on has been long, but add to that the pandemic environment, and it’s hard to see the road’s end.

John W. Ayers, Glendale

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To the editor: In late February 2020, my husband and I were in Maui. There, we heard stories of folks rushing back to the mainland and rumors of approaching lockdowns. We flew back to San Francisco on a Tuesday evening and immediately prepared to shelter at home for what we thought might be several weeks.

We followed all directives, but around Labor Day I tested positive for COVID-19. After two weeks I was better.

As the months passed, we were challenged on another level. My husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer as well as prostate cancer. Suddenly the pandemic that had taken hundreds of thousands lives did not seem important. We had beaten the virus, but we were told my husband of 41 years should “worry.”

Now, with this pandemic a year old, we are chasing the vaccine. My husband started chemotherapy several weeks ago only to learn recently that it had not been working. I don’t know what the future holds, but we will continue to fight for every shred of this precious life.

COVID be gone, and cancer be damned.

Linda Robertson, Richmond, Calif.

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To the editor: One year into this pandemic, I’m still working from home. When California ordered its residents to shelter in place, the adjustment for me was easy. I could perform the duties of my job over email, phone calls and Zoom.

Yet there were millions of others who could not work from home. My immigrant Latino parents were among them.

My father, in particular, delivers car parts by day and pizza by night. As his son, I scoured the internet for whatever hand sanitizers, masks and disinfectants I could buy him so he could be protected from this virus.

Thankfully my father never contracted COVID-19 and has received his first dose of the vaccine. I’m incredibly heartbroken, however, that more than 22,000 Latinos in California could not say the same thing. That’s because they fell to the brutality of this virus.

I fight for people like them. They are our state’s eternal blessings.

Christian Arana, San Francisco

The writer is vice president of policy at the Latino Community Foundation.

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To the editor: It feels like it’s been a full year of Sundays, and I hate Sundays.

While growing up with my four siblings, Sunday was the day my dad suffered through the hangover from Saturday night and was usually in a foul mood. We weren’t allowed to go visit friends because Sunday was their family day or church day or whatever. The mind-numbing boredom was demoralizing.

Sunday was also an anxious day for me as I put off doing my homework until the last minute. It made my stomach knot up from the tension.

I always looked forward to Monday, with its clean slate for the upcoming week. I enjoyed the stimulation of school, and the new week held the promise of creativity and mental challenges. I could hang out with my friends after school every day and play sports.

It hasn’t felt like my beloved Monday since sometime before last March. I can’t wait for it to be Monday again.

Jeanne Jackson, Rancho Palos Verdes

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To the editor: I was on my way to a second year of sobriety when the pandemic hit. I promised myself that no matter what, I was going to use this situation to make my faith and sobriety stronger.

On four occasions I really felt like going out; each time the urge was stronger, but I always kept my promise.

I always tell people that if you were sober on Jan. 1, 2020, and every day until Dec. 31, 2020, there’s no reason for you to ever drink or use again.

Charles Medina, Camarillo

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To the editor: I grew up in Boyle Heights. It didn’t take checking The Times’ coronavirus tracker to see how hard COVID-19 hit my community. Neighbor after neighbor contracted the virus, including myself and my family.

But rather than stand idly by to see my community fall victim to the pandemic, I organized with a group of Latino leaders across Los Angeles to respond philanthropically.

Through our Los Angeles Latino Giving Circle, we pooled together our resources to provide $20,000 to street vendors in the city. These people couldn’t work from home, and many were even shut off from federal relief due largely to their immigration status.

Giving immediate relief was just the start. When Los Angeles comes back from this pandemic, I will be the first in line to buy their food again — and the first to demand the justice that eludes them still.

Steven Almazan, Los Angeles

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To the editor: As someone who just recently turned 81 years old, this pandemic cheated me out of one year of my life. It cheated me of time spent with children and grandchildren.

I will never get that year back, but believe me, I will certainly try to make the best of whatever I have left.

Sue Adamick, Valencia

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To the editor: Upon hearing of the pandemic shutdowns and need for isolation, I immediately signed up for the California Health Corps. I am an older physician and thought I could provide services to those in need.

For 34 years in Santa Clarita, I have provided house calls to older adults. With little known about how COVID-19 spread, many patients feared I could sicken them, even though I wore a full complement of protective equipment.

I still had patients in nursing homes, which were under heavy attack by COVID-19. Many tested positive for the virus, but I feel lucky that only three passed away.

Now, more patients are allowing house visits again. One of my patients who survived COVID-19 turned 100 years old in 2020, and another turned 100 just this March.

I never heard back from the California Health Corps. I turn 70 this year, so they probably thought I was too old.

Gene Dorio, M.D., Santa Clarita

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To the editor: I feel like I waited my whole life for Gov. Gavin Newsom to tell me to just stay home and write. Then he did, and I did.

A year later, I’ve finished two deep revisions of my novel. I published a poem, launched my website and read a lot of books. As the months went on, I added a long essay and a short humor book to the project mix.

Mornings, I can’t wait to get to my desk. Evenings, I may think, is this all there is? But the days fly by. I’m lucky.

Debby Mayer, San Diego


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