There wasn’t a cloud in the sky last Friday as 79-year-old Jan Wrisinger was laid to rest in the Missouri Veteran’s Cemetery in Higginsville.
“It was a perfect morning,” said her son Tony, the founder of Sideliner Sports and the Sonic Locker Room radio program that originates on Real Country 1030 AM KCWJ Independence. “It was a bright sunny day and mom could look down and smile – to let us know she’s just fine and up in heaven with our Dad, having a good ol’ time.”
The funeral was the only real closure Tony and his brothers Bill, Marvin and Wayne were able to enjoy as their mother left her Eastern Jackson County residence and was taken by ambulance to St. Mary’s Medical Center on March 24.
She was experiencing labored breathing and had other signs related to the COVID-19 virus.
“She was diagnosed with the coronavirus on Friday, went on a ventilator Saturday and passed away last Tuesday,” Tony said, speaking in hushed tones.
A total of 14 days – and during that time, no member of the family was allowed to see her – which is hospital protocol across the world now.
“I got a call from the nurse at St. Mary’s – and let me say this, the doctors and nurses at St. Mary’s were just outstanding, they kept us informed on everything going on – at 7:42 Tuesday to tell me Mom had passed,” Bill said.
“And as we sit here and talk about our mom, the one thing we are all struggling with is the simple fact that there was no closure for any of us. We’re trying to figure out who’s going to be at her graveside when she is laid to rest, that will give us some closure, but only 10 relatives can attend.”
The Wrisinger family believed it was important to let anyone with a loved one who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 to know what to expect.
“I hope anyone who has a relative who is fighting the disease has a staff as amazing as the doctors and nurses at St. Mary’s,” Bill said. “I’d call the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and if the phone rang four times and no one picked up, I just hung up the phone, because I knew they were busy.
“I’d call back, ask how she was doing and I’d say thank you – I didn’t want to take any more time than necessary. They’re on the front lines of this disease and we should all be saying prayers for them, too.”
Marvin was able to call the hospital the day she was admitted, and that was a conversation that will have to last a lifetime.
“It was the last time I got to talk to Mom,” Marvin said, “and I told her I loved her. And she told me she loved me back so many times. I am so thankful for that conversation.”
None of the brothers had any idea that Jan, who was strong, fun loving and the mother to every boy in their Lexington, Mo., neighborhood when her sons were growing up, would pass away without a final hug.
“There was just no connection,” Wayne said, “no way to say goodbye. And that’s what makes this virus so difficult on families.”
One night, many members of the Wrisinger families took homemade signs to the St. Mary’s parking lot, hoping Jan would catch a glimpse.
“But she was on a ventilator, and couldn’t get out of bed,” Bill said. “But I know she always knew how much all of us loved her.”
Marvin shook his head in accordance, and added, “The distance thing was the hardest thing for me. Someone from our family would have been with her night and day, but we couldn’t, And now, just nine of us are allowed to go to her graveside when she is laid to rest.”
Marvin took a long, deep breath and added, “Was she scared? Was she wondering why she was all alone?”
Bill simply said, “The heroes of this pandemic are the doctors and nurses and I promise you they were there for her, they made sure she was comfortable and she was ventilated, so she was asleep and she was not afraid.”
Tony was the first to speak after that powerful statement and simply said, “Thanks, I think that gives us all peace of mind.”
The mood turned brighter as a cloud slipped past the sun, creating the perfect atmosphere for four brothers to talk about a woman with a sunny disposition.
“Mom called me Franco and Bill ‘Billy Boy,’” Tony said, chuckling, “and she always said, ‘You boys all have the best friends. And they are always welcome in this house.’”
Tony said one night a friend came over for dinner and had steak and a baked potato, while her boys dined on leftovers.
“We didn’t understand that,” Tony said, “until Mom told us that our guests always come first in this household.”
Bill chuckled as he compared Lexington to the popular Andy Griffith Show.
“Back then, Lexington was Mayberry,” Bill said. “No one locked their doors. Everyone knew everyone else in the neighborhood, and if you got in trouble, your mom and dad were going to find out.”
The brothers all laughed at that comment.
“Thank goodness we have each other, our wives, our kids – that’s the only way to get through something like this,” Tony said. “The staff at St. Mary’s was unbelievable, we can’t thank Meyers Funeral Home enough for the way they handled her service and between the four of us, we’ve had about 500 phone calls and social media messages.”
As the brotherly conversations soon came to an end, and Tony walked a guest to his car, he added, “I just wish we could have had some closure. I’d give anything to tell Mom ‘I love you’ one more time, and give her a hug.”