On Sunday, March 8, 2020 I took my mother to see my dad at the Memory Care facility for a visit. Little did we know that it would prove to be the last time my mom would see her husband and my father, Wallace “Ed” J. LeMerise in person.
Shortly after, on Monday, March 23, 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered Michigan into “lockdown” due to COVID19. By Thursday of that week, my family received word from the Memory Care facility that my Dad was experiencing “low oxygen”.
The following morning he was taken to the hospital where he was admitted and put on oxygen. Two days later, we received a call stating that my Father was COVID positive and that if he survived, he would be in much worse condition than when he went into the hospital.
My mom made the very difficult decision to take him off of oxygen. The doctor said that he would probably pass away within hours. Our hearts were broken and we were scared. The worst part was that due to Governor Whitmer’s orders, we could not be there with him.
In our absence, the nurses were kind enough to Facetime our family of six siblings so we could jointly tell our father that we loved him, would miss him, and say our good-byes. It was one of the hardest moments of our life.
My father looked at us behind his oxygen mask and I knew that he did not really understand what was happening to him. It was very difficult for us to not be able to be there, tell him what was happening, hug him, and kiss him good-bye. It was the nurses who stayed by his side and held his hand when he passed away the next day on Sunday, March 29, 2020. His death certificate said that he died of pneumonia and “COVID-19” with dementia and dehydration as additional causes.
Due to Governor Whitmer’s ongoing shutdowns and “one size fits all policies”, we were unable to have a funeral until August 21 at the Great Lakes Cemetery in Holly, Michigan. My Dad had 22 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. Some of them were able to come home and attend the funeral service including my daughter, who is currently serving in the U.S. Navy. Due to Governor Whitmer’s restrictions on churches, we were not able to have a traditional luncheon at the church. Fortunately, we were able to secure the American Legion where we had a boxed lunch for those who came to the funeral.
My family understands that as a state we were in unprecedented times, facing the danger of an unprecedented virus. But what we didn’t understand was why situations could not have been handled individually, and with mercy. It was a truly “big government’s” rule. Governor Whitmer had “decreed” how it should be and all of us were forced to abide, even if it meant being separated from our loved ones.
Even now, it pains my heart to know that my father died without his family around him. In America, it feels like it should have been our choice how we said our goodbyes to our loved ones, and not the government. His family was everything to him – nothing else mattered and when it came time for those who mattered to him to be there for him, we were blocked from being there. It was very sad and it breaks my heart to think about it.
My father was my hero. His life taught me so much. In honor of him and his legacy I had to speak up: Governor Whitmer stood between my father and our family’s final parting. She made a broad and general ruling that caused our family to miss a moment we will never get back.
I will not forget.
A grieving family,
Jennifer Bickel and family