Mercedes Vinluan Garcia died peacefully Tuesday afternoon in Bonita, California, slightly more than three months after celebrating her 90th birthday. Her oldest daughter and youngest sister were at her bedside.
It is awkward and deeply frustrating to have to grieve from afar. It is even more awkward to grieve when, in many respects, we lost our mother years ago. She was diagnosed with dementia around the time Frannie was born, so my daughter never knew her grandmother at her liveliest, most lucid self. But Mom’s illness never got in the way of her fierce devotion and love for all of us, and she delighted in her only grandchild – especially given that we named her after the husband she lost nearly 30 years ago.
It doesn’t help that COVID-19 concerns will likely limit arrangements to grieve together in California, even as many pandemic restrictions are being eased. It may be weeks before my sister and brother and I can lay her to rest.
I don’t really have it in me to weave the kind of lengthy, heartfelt tribute my mother deserves, so I won’t even try right now. The memories – her sardonic, surprisingly goofy sense of humor; her generosity of spirit; her almost comical worry about the tiniest things that might befall us – will arise here and there and at the weirdest times, as grief does. Just know that our hearts are broken, and we will miss her deeply.