dear friendlies…part 2

She was a dóttir, a systir, a móðir, a frænka, a tengdamóðir, an amma, and most recently a langamma. She passed away peacefully in hospice this past week attended to lovingly by the caretakers at her board and care and regular visits by us, her closest family, and hospice services. She was my mother in law.
To say it has been difficult to have an elderly loved one in a care facility during COVID is to say very little. There is a LOT to say. But most of that I won’t say here-out of respect for family, my own sanity, and even of you, dear reader. She had been dealing with progressive COPD for several years now and had been on oxygen-first, as needed, but increasingly full time over the past year. We had finally gotten her to move from a difficult second floor apartment into a Senior Living apartment which was really nice and once there she enjoyed it. Unfortunately upon moving there, her disease advanced quite a bit, but it was much more comfortable for her there-yet still too far from us here in Long Beach. In February of this year she had an exacerbation of her COPD which required hospitalization and upon release it was decided she could no longer live on her own. (I had already been made her POA for both medical and financial affairs as her daughter lives in New Zealand, one son had passed away due to AIDS and the other one… well… she was more comfortable with me doing it. The rest of the family lives in Iceland.) Not living on her own was a great disappointment to this fiercely independent woman of 84 years. We had to rush to find a place for her and aside from the obvious requirements, it needed to be much closer to us than Burbank and the “dreaded drive” from Long Beach.
We settled on a place- all of them seemed imperfect to us but we went with intuition, picked one, and got lucky! The caregivers there were wonderful. We set up her room with some of her favorite things-mostly family photos and personal items and a giant map of Iceland.

Why Iceland, you may wonder. Well imagine a young girl of 18 or 19 in a small town outside of Reykjavik wondering about the world at large. Imagine a village of fishermen and their wives and families. Imagine Iceland in the 1940’s. Then move on to the 1950’s.
Sometime in the mid 1950’s young Iceland girls were meeting young US servicemen and many became brides and moved to the US. Such was the story of Jane (pronounced yawn-ee) Elvina and her sister Disa. They both had families and divorced with small children to care and provide for. They took this seriously and worked hard to do so. There were hardships, regrets, and other travails, but they carried on. The rest of the brothers (3) remained in Iceland, married, had children and were steadfast Icelanders. Elvina (as she preferred to be called as Americans just did not get the Icelandic pronunciation of Jane) enjoyed many visits to her homeland and regular visits from her Icelandic relatives and friends. I married and divorced (over 20 yrs ago) one of her sons and I always said that I gained a great MIL in the settlement. She loved her grandsons dearly and spent a lot of time with us creating beloved memories. Each of my sons traveled to Iceland with her to see her homeland and loved the experience. She also traveled to New Zealand many times to enjoy visits with her daughter, son in law, and her only granddaughter.
She loved to read, watch classic movies on TV, going to the movies, live music and theater, watching the Grammy’s, big band music, the crooners, decorating her Christmas tree, among many other things and of course, her family. She never drove- somewhat of a miracle for anyone having lived in the LA area for as long as she did. I always marveled at that! She worked for decades in a publication distribution center where she was a devoted employee and lived in the same upstairs apartment for over 50 years where she had raised her three kids as a single parent. She loved to cook (especially Italian food), travel with her brother Boi to Las vegas on his annual visits where they would dine finely and see live shows. For as long as I can remember, we always had hangikjöt (Icelandic smoked lamb) with boiled potatoes, peas and white sauce for Christmas Eve as was her tradition. Her Icelandic niece and sister-in-law were both flight attendants and made sure that she always received a special delivery via carry on in time for holiday celebrations.
We called her Amma-Icelandic for grandmother.


Having to move her to her board and care in early March was difficult enough. We had a couple of weeks where we were able to visit her and get her settled into her new surroundings. Then COVID happened. All visitation ground to a halt and we joined tens of thousands of families who could no longer see their loved ones in person. It was very concerning and stressful as in addition to her being a COPD hospice patient , she had developed severe aphasia and the only way we could communicate with her was through her iPad and occasional texting, a communication card and even that was beginning to fail us. It was extremely difficult for her and her caregivers as she knew what she wanted to communicate but it was so very difficult if not just impossible for her to do so. By late June we were able to resume visits following social distancing guidelines, but that didn’t last for long.

In July she had a fall and had to be moved to a rehab center for a few weeks where they had a massive outbreak of COVID due to the fact that weekly COVID test results of staff and patients were taking 10 days to come back (*%^&#@*%?) and by then the place had become a hotspot. I was getting auto calls telling me of the number of cases daily. Horrific! Fortunately she did not ever test positive for COVID. Itself a small miracle!

By the end of July we were able to get her moved back to the B&C but she was on a steady decline at this point. Since she was a hospice patient we were able to have more visitation and we did whatever we could to help her and the caregivers make her transition peaceful. Due to COVID however, her daughter and granddaughter in NZ and her Icelandic family could not travel to see her which was so very difficult for them. It was my job to keep everyone up to date with things, to follow her wishes regarding medical care, and keep her financial affairs in order. We will all need this help at some point and it’s an honor to have the complete trust of someone who needs this help. Everyone here pitched in to support this effort. and I am grateful.

The final weeks involved many hours of simple visits and just being present. Stitching became my passtime during these visits and most of the pieces I worked on were shibori pieces for my ongoing zoom workshop at the time. It was a peaceful and reflective time.
Her family looks forward to being able to travel once again and get together in person to celebrate her life. Takk og ást.
Blessaður Amma Elvina Jane, July 23,1936…September 28,2020

29 thoughts on “dear friendlies…part 2

  1. Leslie van Gelder

    What a beautiful tribute to your mother-in-law. She sounds she was a very interesting, strong woman. Having cared for my mother the seven years before she died. I can appreciate the wonderful care you took of Amma. My condolences for your loss.

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  2. Mary Kenesson

    Thank you for sharing her story and your photos – I saw my mother, and myself in them and as I write the ache of missing her returned; a deep, almost welcome emotion. She was from Sweden, and she too was so strong, resilient and resourceful, generous, humble and inspiring – loved by everyone in our extended family, who called her Nana.

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  3. emilysuzanna

    I am so grateful to hear this story; thank you for sharing this. It is a testimony about caring and love in hard times which we so badly need to hear. Sending condolences, prayers and love, to you and your family.

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  4. lizzieB1

    Sad for an end to a wonderful life. Hard struggles this past year, but in the end you were able to be with her & bring her happiness. Prays for you & family.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      takk lizzie. it was the best we could make it, all things considered. end of life with a loved one is never easy. Covid has made it so difficult for so many. it was a blessing that she could facetime with overseas family while she was still able.

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  5. taichi2012

    Lovely tribute to your mother-in-law and also to you. You two had a relationship that doesn’t seem to be usual—love and respect–especially after a divorce.

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  6. Carol Tummon

    So very sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing your memories and the life of your mother-in-law. She seemed such a resourceful woman who took her responsibilities extremely seriously. I know that despite all that had to be done you and the family will miss her. I lost my mother-in-law in May and there is always something everyday that reminds me of her, Take good care and my deepest sympathies.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      I was fortunate to gain family in Iceland and learn about that country in the process. I can’t wait to go visit there! her memory surrounds us in so many ways and places! takk!

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  7. janstevenson

    Glennis, love to you and condolences on your mother-in-law’s passing. and for carrying such grace in this especially challenging time. I’m so glad you were able to attend in these last months as it has been heartbreaking to watch the disruption of families, more so as loved ones are making their transitions. holding you and your family in thoughts.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      She did! And there are so many wonderful photos of old iceland and more. My son went through and loaded them into a dropbox file to share with all the relatives. before she declined we also went on google maps and saw the home where she grew up! modern technology can be fun!
      takk Marilee

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  8. Suzi Drew

    Thank you Glennis for sharing your beautiful mother in law’s story. Birth and death, the two most profound moments of our lives, deserve to be honoured and reflected upon and shared. My thoughts are with you and your, and Janes family, as you all adjust to life now without her being there. My condolences and warmest regards to you all.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      takk Suzie! sweet remembrances. Early in my life I attended the death of my first husband and through that unfortunate sadness learned to appreciate the profundity of life’s passing.

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  9. Bev

    What a wonderful tribute to this lady. I’m sorry for your loss. She was surrounded by a lot of love at the end of a long life, well lived. My mother was also called Elvina and we never encountered another person of that name….and strangely your tribute arrived just as I was finishing an Icelandic lopi sweater I just knitted for a little person. Life is full of small circles..

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  10. shiborigirl Post author

    From Jean …who asked me to post this here for her…takk Jean!
    “Thanks for sharing this retrospective of Elvina’s life and the photographs. I love the shot of Elvina in 1967 Burbank with Laura, Joe and Anthony at a table set for Christmas. Elvina was so kind and welcoming when I stayed with her while working on a project for Disney at Circle Seven in Burbank. I enjoyed sharing time with Elvina. She loved reading, working crossword puzzles and cooking. Whether it was a simple meal or a performance, she liked the company. I remember her kitchen was lined with photographs of family and scenic shots of Iceland. I was happy to take her out, since she didn’t drive, and we were able to see Jersey Boys together at the Pantages and catch a couple of movies together in Burbank. She was very social and as her disease progressed she was frustrated that she had the right words in her brain, but she could not make them come out. I respect her so much for her curiosity about the world, her courage in raising three children alone in a place so different from Iceland, and her great love and connection with you, Tristan and Trevor at every stage of their lives. I’m glad she got to see Dean before she passed. I think of her transition as moving her away from frustration, fear, and pain into goodness and light. What an amazing life Elvina had! And what a privilege I feel to have shared a sliver of it with her. Jean”

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  11. carmen3110

    Dear Shibori Girl,

    My sincere condolences on the loss of your beautiful Mother in Law. Your post really touched m y heart

    I can only relate in part with your loss and the difficulties it must have presented during this time.

    My beautiful father passed in 2018 and to some extent I am relieved that he is not here at this time of Covid. The lock down in Melbourne where I live has been horrific. One of the mandates is that we can only travel 5 kilometres from our place of residence. My Father Philip was fiercely independent till the day he died- shortly after his 89th birthday. Since my Mother passed almost 30 years ago he has lived on his own. Firstly in the family home before moving to a townhouse in the city of Melbourne some 18 kilometres away.

    He never drove either but it never bothered him. In his mid eighties he was diagnosed with liver cancer and his deteriotion at first was slow but was very obvious.

    All my siblings and I – 4 of us altogether- offered to have him come live with us but he refused all offers. Care towards the end was extremely difficult but he was steadfast. Even the mention of hospitalization or being cared for in respite brought on bad reactions from him. He eventually passed away at home. He had all his family with him just prior to passing and my 2 sisters by his side when he took his final breath.

    I hope you don’t mind me relaying this to you. Somehow I felt compelled because I can’t imagine how difficult it is for families not to be able to be with their loved ones at this time. I know it would have broken my heart if we couldn’t visit him and I know here in Melbourne, Victoria many people in aged care spent many months on their own, closed off from families and visitors before parting. I’m sure many died of a broken heart.

    Once again my sincere condolences. It seems like your MIL like my Father led a very full and independent life.

    Take care Carmen – from Australia

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  12. Margaret S Mills

    Sending my sincere condolences to you and your family upon Elvina’s passing. May she rest in peace free of all cares.

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