Long-distance phone calls, artificial roses: How families are celebrating Mother’s Day during pandemic

By | May 10, 2020

Like other moms in care facilities and hospitals across Canada, Minnie Magnusson’s Mother’s Day at her Gimli, Man. nursing home will be a quiet one.

But the 106-year-old has never been one to let that kind of setback faze her.

“She’s a tough lady,” said Magnusson’s granddaughter, Krista Rodkin, 52. “Nothing really gets her down, she just keeps going.”

In the lead up to Mother’s Day, Manitoba’s top doctor urged people to connect virtually and practise physical distancing.

“We need to certainly celebrate that day, but we need to celebrate it a bit differently this year,” Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said, advising people to meet outdoors, avoid large gatherings and limit close, prolonged contact.

“No one showing any symptoms, even mild symptoms, of respiratory illness should be attending any type of gathering,” he said.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, advised people celebrating Mother’s Day to meet outdoors, avoid large gatherings and limit close, prolonged contact. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

Rodkin, who lives in Pickering, Ont., said that means her family won’t be able to travel to Manitoba this year to celebrate Magnusson — but they’re finding other ways to honour her.

Growing up, Rodkin said her family from across the country would reunite at her grandmother’s place for a slice of vinaterta, an Icelandic dessert. Her 23-year-old son, Connor Rodkin, makes it every year now.

Magnusson’s daughter said Mother’s Day will be difficult this year, knowing the family can’t make their usual visit to Betel Home.

“We can’t spend any time with her, and I can’t spend time with my children, so it’ll be very quiet,” said Diane Thompson, 78, from her home in Whitby, Ont.

But Thompson said her mom knows the latest routine. One of her daughters calls her each day to touch base.

‘Doesn’t get any easier’

In Winnipeg, Robin Henley and her three sisters are finding new ways to honour their late mother.

“We’ve always been very close,” she said. “She’s been gone 20 years and [it] doesn’t get any easier.”

Usually, Jo Anne Polson’s four daughters would visit their mother’s burial site at the city’s Brookside Cemetery. That gathering was not possible this year because of physical distancing measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On Saturday, Henley took her granddaughter, Amy Lawrence, who put a handful of artificial roses down to let her great-grandmother know her family is thinking of her.

Robin Henley and granddaughter, Amy Lawrence, visit the cemetery on Saturday to pay tribute to Henley’s mother, Jo Anne Polson. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Henley said her mother made light of difficult situations and made people laugh in hard times. She knows her mother would approve of the flowers on this year’s unconventional holiday.

The pandemic has made Mother’s Day a challenging time for families across the country, but Rodkin said she knows firsthand why physical distancing measures are so important — especially for people in personal care homes, who are at an increased risk of having serious complications from COVID-19.

Last month, the care home where her grandmother lives had a COVID-19 scare, when an employee there tested positive for the illness caused by the new coronavirus. That test later turned out to be a false positive.

But before those results were confirmed, nine residents at Betel Home had started showing symptoms of respiratory illness and were tested for COVID-19 after being in contact with the employee who was thought to have it.

Instead of with her sisters, Robin Henley paid tribute to her late mother with her granddaughter, Amy Lawrence. They placed artificial roses at her burial site in Winnipeg’s Brookside Cemetery. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The family is grateful for the care she gets in her hometown, and Thompson said she remains confident the home care workers will make it a special day for her mom.

“We’re really sad that we can’t go and visit her. It might be months yet before you can put your arms around her and give her a hug,” she said.

“I love you. Stay well. Hope to see you soon.”

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