Editor’s note: The Virus Diaries is a series in which Mainers talk about how they are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Esther Gyger, left, is shown in 2013 with, from left: her daughter, Sally Biggar, her granddaughter, Sally Littlefield, and daughter, Martha Littlefield. Gyger died on April 5 – not because of COVID-19, but as Martha Littlefield says: “COVID19 definitely impacted the last month of her life.” Photo courtesy of Martha Littlefield

Two weeks ago, “The Virus Diaries” featured a story about Esther Gyger, a 95-year-old woman living at an assisted-living center that had restricted visitors because of the coronavirus outbreak. Her daughters could only visit with her by standing outside her window and speaking to her by phone.

Last week, Martha Littlefield of Poland wrote her mother’s obituary after Gyger died on April 5. Littlefield said her mother did not succumb to COVID-19, but “COVID-19 definitely impacted the last month of her life.”

Littlefield and her sister, Sally Biggar, spoke with their mother at her assisted living facility in Auburn on March 31. Three days later, Gyger fell in her room and was brought to a hospital, and eventually to a hospice. It was another two days before her daughters were allowed to see their mother, just hours before she died.

“There were a number of effects of COVID-19 had on me in the final days of my mother’s life,” Littlefield said. “When she was transported to the hospital on April 3 following a fall in her unit and was still responsive, due to COVID-19, my sister and I could not be with her. When she was subsequently transferred to the Androscoggin Hospice House in Auburn, we could not initially be with her. It was only when our mother was actively dying, two days later, that visitors were allowed.

“Due to COVID-19, the number was restricted to two (visitors), and it had to be the same two. Due to the restriction, I was grateful my brother, who died a year and a half ago, was not alive so we did not have to make the difficult choice of which two (siblings) would be allowed. Due to COVID-19, my sister and I were required to wear face masks. By now our mother was no longer responsive. We will never know if she was aware of our presence.


“My sister and I understood these measures. But it still made it very hard. We held her hand, we touched her, we talked to her. But there was no kissing or hugging. It felt odd. This barrier that made it feel somewhat unnatural. We were grateful for this time. Our mother died nine hours after our visit.

“Due to COVID-19, arrangements with the funeral home were done electronically. Due to COVID-19, the staff at our mother’s assisted living facility made the selection of her final attire (with guidance from the family.) Due to COVID-19, there will be no memorial service at this time. In fact, there has not been any gathering of family members. There have been no hugs exchanged between my sister and myself. My sister mentioned it after our final visit with our mother. We would have hugged for two reasons: because it’s normally how we end a visit, and because the people who were caring for our mother said her time was near.

“The reason my sister and I didn’t hug, was because of COVID-19. We grieve separately.”

Do you have a story to share about how you are affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Email us at virus@pressherald.com

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