In summers past, Crystal Mundy and her older sister would take the Greyhound bus to go stay with their grandparents in Kelowna, B.C.
The trip from Terrace, B.C., to the Okanagan was 24 hours, given the six-hour 1 a.m. layover in Prince George.
“It is one of my clearest childhood memories,” said Mundy.
On Dec. 13, Mundy lost her 78-year-old grandmother Evelyn Partridge to COVID-19.
By the next day, the Interior Health Authority reported 53 COVID cases at McKinney Place long-term care home in Oliver, B.C., where the senior died — 38 residents and 15 staff.
Mundy said in younger years, her grandmother was the busy family matriarch, helping with Mundy’s cousins, volunteering for Central Okanagan Citizens on Patrol and other clubs or playing her passion: bingo.
She was married to George Herbert Partridge for 60 years, and they had three children and five grandchildren.
She worked for Canada Post, and he was a custodian.
“My grandmother was the louder one of the couple and would be telling my grandpa what to do,” Mundy said. “My grandpa was very, very quiet. She spent most of her life making sure that she was telling him what to do in order to get things going.”
Partridge lost the use of her legs and moved to a care facility in 2013.
On Dec. 7, an outbreak was declared at McKinney Place.
Mundy’s mother noticed there was something different in the senior’s voice when she called.
“She just didn’t sound right,” said Mundy.
Partridge tested positive in early December. A cough soon set in, and her oxygen levels dipped. She was vulnerable. Her diabetes caused circulation and mobility issues — so she used a wheelchair and needed specialized care that her long-time husband in his 80s could no longer manage.
But the couple spoke often on the phone.
“Sadly, on Saturday [the day before she died], she had a really good day,” said Mundy.
In her final hours, Mundy said, her grandmother called her husband and her daughter but couldn’t speak. By Sunday, staff told family, Partridge had been holding on to talk to her daughter, Mundy’s mom.
“My mom was on the phone with her at 11 a.m., and she died while my mom was on the phone with her.”
The call came 10 or 11 days after the first symptoms.
She said her family were not at all comfortable speaking about their loss but she felt compelled. Mundy said others need to understand that losing an older person to COVID-19 is no less of a blow.
“People having to be alone at that moment is just horrible,” she said. “She should have been able to be with my grandpa. She was just a good woman, and she had a lot of life left in her.”