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'Heartbroken': Abbeville woman dies without family by her side because of COVID-19 restrictions

Daughter and mother in photo from Thanksgiving 2018

In a photo from Thanksgiving 2018, Phyllis Tucker, left, is shown with her mother, Barbara Culbreth, both of Abbeville.

Lindsey Tucker Jones of Abbeville was in the process of writing her stepmother’s eulogy when she felt compelled to post on Facebook Wednesday morning. Her stepmother’s graveside service was Wednesday afternoon, with three chairs spaced six feet apart.

“I wrote the post out of, really, frustration,” said Jones, 37. “I never imagined it would hit as many people as it did. ... I know a lot of our society is experiencing a lot of what we just did as a family, but a lot of society just doesn’t know. If people don’t start taking COVID-19 precautions seriously, more are going to experience what we did on Sunday, March 29.”

Jones said her stepmother, Phyllis Tucker, 64, was admitted to Abbeville Area Medical Center with pneumonia but tested negative for COVID-19. Phyllis, who had multiple sclerosis, had been residing in a nursing home prior to hospitalization.

“From the time she was admitted, to the time she passed, I don’t even think it was 12 hours,” Jones said. “Her health declined, rapidly, overnight. Because she had pneumonia, they had to test her for COVID-19 and she was running a fever. They had to treat her as if she were positive. We got the test results on Monday and the test results for COVID-19 were negative.”

An excerpt from Jones’ Wednesday Facebook post reads:

”Phyllis passed away on Sunday morning in a hospital room with nurses and a doctor. Because of COVID-19 she wasn’t surrounded by loved ones. I begged for them to just allow her mother to see her but they couldn’t. They wanted to. Trust me, the doctor was just as heartbroken at our situation as I was but he has rules and procedures that are in place to protect everyone. So she didn’t hear my voice or Katherine. She didn’t have her mother holding her hand. Her mother wasn’t able to see her daughter alive ‘one last time.”

As hard as this was for me, all think about is Phyllis’s mother, Barbara,” Jones said. “Phyllis was still her child. You’ve got a mother who sees her child almost every single day who cannot see her in her last moments.”

Jones said, much to her surprise, her post has been shared many times, as far away as Texas, at the time of the writing of this article.

Jones said Phyllis was a longtime employee of Ingles grocery store in Abbeville before retirement and Phyllis was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as a young teenager.

“She was very strong and very much a fighter,” Jones said of Phyllis. “I don’t think God makes people like her very often. She was just a kind, kind soul. There’s not been another love like what she and my father had. They got married right out of high school, separated at one point, and remarried later in life. My father passed two years ago. When he passed, I, and Phyllis’ mother took care of her. Her mother visited with her almost every day. I’m an only child.”

When global stories of COVID-19 first began to circulate, Jones said she thought maybe it wasn’t a big deal and was “skeptical.”

“But, when I started hearing stories of parents not being able to be with their young children, that devastated me, as a mother of a 4-year-old,” Jones, said. “At that point, my daughter and I started self-quarantining.”

When Jones wrote the Facebook post on Wednesday morning, she said she was tired of people voicing how they are “being inconvenienced” during this pandemic.

“I want to make this very clear, as a society, we should definitely be disappointed about the things we are not able to do, whether it’s going fishing or going to the beach or to a graduation,” Jones said. “But, those things are not the most important in life right now. ... It’s a little bit of a reality check, for everyone.”

Contact St. Claire Donaghy at 864-943-2518.

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