For those of you who have been following my author page, kayrunyan.com, you may have noticed that my dear brother who was in a nursing home contracted Covid-19. He passed on July 26th, and fortunately, I was able to fly to Tennessee to be at his memorial. Of my three siblings, Gerald was the dearest to me.
Four years ago, Gerald and his wife made the decision to return to Tennessee, where her remaining family lives. This year, when we could see how this horrible pandemic was moving with the speed of a western wildfire on dry tinder through care facilities, we tried to get him out of the nursing home and back home before he tested positive for Covid-19. Our best intentions, it seemed, were thwarted at every turn. His wife had developed dementia, and then the nursing home blocking things saying they would withdraw all help because he would be going into an unsafe environment.
We had arranged, at the family expense, for additional home healthcare aide from 8 am until 8 pm at which time he and his wife would be in bed. And, yet, the care facility would still would not cooperate, insisting that they would call Protective Services if we moved them home.
This is a very small town in Tennessee of 7,000 people and, perhaps unsurprisingly, all the agencies seem to be inter-connected. The agency with whom we had arranged home services said they would withdraw all assistance. My last letter to the administrator of the care facility was to state that the facility was not a safe environment either. A week later he tested positive. The saddest part was that his wife had not been able to see him except through a window for the past 3 months. He was declining from sheer loneliness, despair and depression. We wanted him to be at home with his wife of 62 years. We knew he didn't have long. But, alas, all efforts failed.
A memorial, with family only, was held at a local church. Gerald’s wife wanted a ‘viewing’ and it broke my heart to see him in the casket. He did not look like the brother I’d known and loved for a lifetime. Thankfully the casket was closed by the time the memorial was started. His daughter had put together a wonderful video story of his life that could be seen on monitors. His brother-in-law played the guitar and sang two lovely songs. Two of his favorite country western songs were played. I wrote and read his eulogy. After the memorial we went to the cemetery. Since he had served time in the military, two guards removed the flag from his coffin, folded it and presented it to his wife. Another guard played Taps. I will close by saying that everyone who knew Gerald Runyan loved him. He was kind, loved his family and was always a service to his community. He was a respected fire marshal and arson inspector. There were letters sent by other firemen in Oregon who had worked with him.
I have still not recovered from his death, and his wife is walking around like a ghost. My sister is in a nursing home outside of Fort Worth, TX and COVID-19 has broken out there as well. I am so afraid that the pandemic will take my sister too. Life has always had a talent for dealing families and individuals a cruel hand, but in more ‘normal’ times, we could take cold comfort that it wasn’t us, probably won’t be us, can’t be us. Thinking that we are, somehow, immune from events that befall others helps us sleep at night. That this plague seems to be able to reach its virulently lethal claws to such a wide and diverse swath of humanity is beyond alarming. It’s a harsh reminder of how tenuous our tidy lives really can be, how we need to be grateful for each days’ small mercies, and stand ready to extend a hand in love to those in need.
In my memoir, CHOICES: A Story of Survival, M. Kay Runyan I write about the influence my brother and sister had on my life.