A death and a birth in the same week — and COVID-19 keeps this family apart for both

The Michilsen family of Hamilton is dealing with a family death and a newborn baby in the same week — but physical distancing means neither life will get celebrated for months.

'This whole pandemic makes you realize what's important in life'

The Michilsen family, who lives in Ancaster, Ont., are having to deal with a family death and a newborn baby in the same week — but physical distancing because of COVID-19 means neither life will get celebrated for months. (Submitted by Alison Michilsen)

Alison Michilsen lost her grandfather just days ago and is expecting her third child Thursday— and COVID-19 is robbing her family of the chance to properly celebrate either life.

"It's a very weird and surreal time … to bring in a life and to lose a life in the same week," Alison, 33, said.

"He was excited to see his great-grandchild and now, I wasn't expecting this and I can't even say goodbye properly."

COVID-19 hasn't infected anyone in her family, but it is punishing all of them.

Because of physical distancing measures set in place to mitigate the novel coronavirus, Alison will have to wait months before attending a ceremony for her grandfather's death and introducing the rest of her family to her newborn.

'Nobody gets to say goodbye'

Martin Poos, Alison's 88-year-old grandfather, died Saturday after a life of devotion to his community in Grimsby, Ont., and to his family.

He formed his town's local youth soccer club, served as an alderman on Grimsby town council and helped the community in other ways, prompting the city to name its main soccer field at Grimsby's Southward Park after him.

"He was just a great person with a great heart," Alison said.

Martin Poos, 88, died with family nearby on Saturday, but he will likely need to wait months before getting a funeral surrounded by family because of COVID-19. (Submitted by Alison Michilsen)

Poos would have had a busy funeral this week. Now, it'll be months before he gets one at all.

"It feels like no closure … nobody gets to say goodbye," Alison said.

"Who knows when we'll be able to do that? When we'll be able to get together, even for a burial, a celebration for life, it's very strange."

Of the many things Poos did accomplish, one thing he still eagerly anticipated was meeting his next great-grandson.

'Very scary' time to be born

Alison has a nine-year-old daughter, Callie, and seven-year-old son, Jace, but said giving birth this time around is "very scary."

Her newborn son, who she will name Reed, is due Thursday.

Steve and Alison Michilsen, 37 and 33, both worry about the birth of their third child because of the novel coronavirus. They plan on delivering the baby at McMaster University Children's Hospital, which had a nurse test positive for COVID-19 last week. (Submitted by Alison Michilsen)

She plans on giving birth at McMaster Children's Hospital, where a nurse recently tested positive for COVID-19.

"You just don't know who has been where and who has what," Alison said.

"I'm just hoping we get to discharge earlier than expected."

Her husband, Steve, was laid off because of the virus. 

He is already leery about leaving the house. Now, he will be the only one allowed by Alison's side at the hospital — and if he leaves the hospital, he won't be allowed back in.

There's never been a lonelier time to be born.

"It's a big life event for not only myself... I was looking forward to [family] coming to the hospital," Alison said.

And it may be months before the newborn meets his grandparents, who are also being cautious because of COVID-19.

"How old will he be when people do get to come and hold him finally, besides just seeing him through the window?" Alison said.

"My mom said, 'Nope … we're not anticipating for two months to hold that baby,' which is sad from her point of view as well, you don't have that bonding experience."

Steve, Jace, Callie and Alison are expecting to welcome a new family member this week — a newborn son, to be named Reed. But just days earlier, his great-grandfather died. The family won't have a chance to celebrate either life properly because of COVID-19. (Submitted by Alison Michilsen)

And while Alison waits for the answers to a swarm of questions buzzing in her brain, she's trying to imagine every possible situation she may end up in because of the virus.

But Alison still has one glimmer of optimism amid the cruel circumstances.

"This whole pandemic makes you realize what's important in life," she said.

"Family is more important and your health is more important and the things people worry about aren't a big deal really."

About the Author

Bobby Hristova


Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca