It was sunshine and blue skies the day Mary Rich and her husband, Bud, drove from their home in Watertown to get the vaccine at a church in Lebanon. But the joy of the occasion was tempered by a death in the family so fresh it was still hard to accept.
Mary’s sister from Monterey had just died of COVID-19.
“She died Monday morning,” Mary says. “Two days ago,” Bud adds.
Her illness was what prompted the couple to be so proactive about getting their own vaccine. Rich says her 83-year-old sister, Barbara Gill, was so careful not to catch COVID. She barely got out of the house.
“I haven’t seen my sister in months because of this,” she says.
But then she fractured her back, requiring a stay in a rehab hospital. That’s where she must have gotten sick, Mary says.
Gill’s condition deteriorated with double pneumonia, and when she wasn’t getting better, the family decided Gill wouldn’t have wanted to be put on a ventilator.
She was unconscious at Cookeville Regional Medical Center when they said their goodbyes — remotely.
Lives Lost In The Pandemic: Betty Jo Dove, The Gallatin Grandmother ‘With 9-Plus Lives’
“I had them go take the phone and put it up to her ear, because they say the hearing is last to go,” she says. “So one at a time, we talked to her and told her we loved her.”
Barbara Gill leaves behind a large extended family of stepchildren, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and according to her obituary, even one great-great-grandchild.
She was born in Monterey, went to college at Trevecca Nazarene, then became a legal secretary. Later, she worked at Monterey High School as a bookkeeper.
Gill was also a seamstress and generally had a knack for crafts. Until her recent health challenges, she was making mementos for a local funeral home owned by a relative. She printed the deceased person’s obituary on a memorial bookmark for everyone to take home.
Who would do the same for her? Rich thought as they planned the funeral.
“It didn’t have to be. That was the thing,” she says of her sister missing out on the benefits of the vaccine by a matter of weeks. “She was not by any means to the place that she was going to die anyway. It was the COVID that killed her.”
COVID is a nasty disease, Rich says, so she is happy to have the vaccine so her family can avoid enduring the same grief again.