Losing Betty
Project info

My grandmother Betty Russell had been taking annual trips to Florida since my grandmother Charlie Russell died in 2018 from leukemia. In November 2020, it was decided she would continue with her annual trips where she stayed with my father and her son, Willie Russell, despite the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic. A few days before Christmas, she was admitted into the hospital after getting coronavirus. She was released a few days later but found herself back in the hospital with coronavirus in January. The doctors weren't optimistic this time. She would likely die from coronavirus. Cyndia Miller, my grandmother's oldest living daughter flew in from Fairbanks, Alaska. Lori Daum and Alice Carter, the two youngest children of Betty drove down from Southern Illinois with my grandmother's neighbor, Bobbi Kuhn, who my grandmother considered a daughter of the heart. This photo essay shows my family’s grief in an unfiltered way during the final days of my grandmother’s life. It shows the phone calls and video calls with my grandmother in the days leading up to her death and how my family had to cope with the unexpected news of saying goodbye to a loved one from a distance. The story also shows my family saying goodbye to my grandmother’s body before she was cremated where her ashes were eventually mailed to her hometown of Buncombe, IL, a small rural town in Southern Illinois. The story then picks back up in Southern Illinois as my family visits the house she lived in since 1991 and then the day of the funeral and her burial. Much of the pain and grief of coronavirus is hidden away from public view, but clearly over 400K families are experiencing some aspect of loss. I documented my family’s grief as a way to acknowledge the larger loss in our society