‘What it has caused is separation’: Gulfport man still grieving loss of wife during pandemic

Living with the loss brought on by the pandemic

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - William Ziegler looks at his family photos often. Particularly of his late wife, Laura, and of all their motorcycle rides together.

“She’s still riding,” said Ziegler. “She’s still riding, I know she is.”

Their last trip together was one she never saw.

“I had her cremated,” said Ziegler. “And she and I rode to Colorado where we were finally able to lay her to rest.”

Laura died on March 22 after a year-long fight with uterine and pancreatic cancer. COVID-19 didn’t take his wife, but it created a deep trauma for Ziegler and his family. Protocols in place prevented the kind of funeral he and his family wanted.

“All of us could not go in to view her body, which definitely broke the heart of my children and grandchildren,” Ziegler said.

It was a hard “no” to take.

“I understood it,” said Ziegler. “It’s just that, I had seen other areas where they were able to manage it differently. The funeral directors that I spoke to were as frustrated, if not more than I.”

However, he realized another option. Because his wife’s father and sister were buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Colorado, that became the preferred choice from his two daughters.

“They wanted to see their mother in the same cemetery as their grandfather,” said Ziegler.

Two months after her passing, they all made the trip to Colorado, where they were able to have some kind of service.

“The cemetery still was under certain restrictions, but they turned their backs, so that all my family could be at the gravesite,” Ziegler said.

There was price to pay. He thinks the trip could have been how he caught COVID-19 himself, from which he has recovered.

“Possibly. Possibly, yes,” said Ziegler.

But he says it was worth the risk.

“Of course,” Ziegler said. “Because that’s what my girls wanted.”

Even now with it being nearly a year later, trauma still lingers.

“COVID has had a detrimental effect on our relationship as a family,” said Ziegler. “What it has caused is separation.”

And when things get back to some kind of normalcy, he hopes his family can as well.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed,” said Ziegler. “I do hope so.”

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