Healing Reflections: "Always Connected" by June Hootman

Jan 12, 2021 | Hannah Schlotthauer, Administrative Assistant | @schlohan

"Always Connected"
Story by: June Hootman | Eau Claire, WI

In January of 2020, Scott, my husband of 41 years, and I were looking forward to life getting back to normal after a busy Christmas season. By mid-January Scott’s rising health concerns took us to a series of doctors, and on Valentine’s Day we learned he had a terminal and very progressive brain tumor. And so, we braved this harsh reality together, inseparable through hospital stay and his homecoming on hospice. Our two grown daughters, Mariah and Katie, who both lived far away, came to be with us as much as they could. We received the most compassionate, competent, and excellent care by the doctors, nurses, and skilled staff who worked with us at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. Nurses like Kali and Shelby touched our very souls as they constantly kept our humanity at the forefront of their service to us. There are no words to describe how precious those considerate interactions are as your world falls apart in front of you. We were so grateful. At last, the time came to take Scott home on hospice. There, surrounded by his wife and daughters, Scott died on the morning of March 6, 2020 – the day after we brought him home on hospice. This introverted, complex, fascinating man who had filled our lives with music from the violins he built, and conversations about ideas from the books he read, and love – so much love - from the multitude of ways he nurtured us, laughed with us, and showed us that we were his universe; this exquisite human being was gone. His absence was so excruciatingly painful for us. A well of grief so dark and deep we could scarcely breathe enveloped us. We struggled to get Scott’s memorial service put together, but we managed to do it. Then COVID hit.

Scott’s memorial service was set for the third week of March but had to be cancelled a few days beforehand due to the COVID outbreak. The service was rescheduled for Scott’s birthday in July, and again over Labor Day weekend, and again on the anniversary of his death on March 6, 2021; all of them had to be cancelled due to COVID. We could not gather or travel to be with one another during the pandemic, so the isolation we experienced was devastating. Hope and healing can come from unexpected directions though. The heroic acts of first responders and hospital staffs across the country inspired us. Helping others begins the healing. We prayed for the safety and health of the medical staff who had become like family to us. We learned how to see each other and stay connected through zoom calls. We connected with bereavement counselors who helped us sort through the grief, loneliness, and depression that often accompany significant losses in life. I will forever be grateful for Jennifer, the counselor who helped me get through some of the worst days of my life. Being forced to remain separated from my children and grandchildren during the year after losing Scott helped me realize how blessed our family had been to be together so frequently over the years. It brought into sharp focus this truth; the most valuable things in life are not things at all, but the shared moments spent with people you love. It really mattered when others reached out to help and I treasured all of the friends and family members who checked in regularly to assure me of their care and concern for us. Human kindness, both the act of giving it and receiving it, heals.

This past year has been like none other. The pandemic has scarred us all in some way, but it has also helped us realize how precious it is to give someone a hug, and how lovely it is to see someone’s whole face instead of just what is visible above a mask. We are going to hold Scott’s memorial service this summer on June 26th. We will be able to gather in person to celebrate this beautiful man whom I love more than life itself. I know he’ll be there as I have felt him right by my side during this past lonely and devastating year. I felt his encouragement to get back into my art, to start painting again. Our daughters are ever aware of him guiding them forward and encouraging them as well. As we see his empty chair at the table, the ache of his absence is ever present, but so many things have helped us heal. Whenever we see a violin or hear one being played, he is there with us. When we hear “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” being sung or played, he is right there too. Enjoying a piece of pecan pie, or a piece of watermelon, or talking about something we’ve read or learned…he is right there in the midst of it. Healing does not mean leaving Scott behind, it means moving forward with him ever present in this new capacity. That is enormously comforting as we continue to heal and try to embrace our new world.

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Art by: June Hootman

My name is June Hootman. I’m a retired teacher who has always loved the arts. Over the years, I sincerely enjoyed preparing displays for my classroom and doing projects that included art components with my students. When I retired, I began to spend much more time painting because it seemed to speak from my soul. I primarily worked in acrylics and watercolors. My confidence was not strong at first, but thanks to my husband’s constant encouragement and enthusiasm for my work, I began to enter a few art shows. I have a few pieces of art in some permanent collections, and I’ve sold some other pieces, but marketing my art has never been a huge factor in my reason for creating art. When this Healing Reflections Mural project came up, I knew I wanted to participate as an artist in order to pour all of my love for my husband into this endeavor as a tribute to him and as an expression of my love for him through my art. I hope it will resonate with those who view it.

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For more information about the Healing Reflections gallery or to get involved with the project, contact Sara Martinek.

To discuss the latest on Post-COVID Syndrome, head over to the Post-COVID Recovery discussion group.

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Post-COVID Recovery blog.

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