Lots of people visited the nursing home, but the sisters stood out because whenever they came to sit outside their mother’s window in the evening, they stayed for hours and hours, and then they came back the next morning.
On the other side of the window, Susan Hailey, 76 years old, COVID-19 positive, would sit up in her narrow hospital bed and look out at the world. As she ate, she would watch all the photographers, taking pictures of the building, and the pack of reporters, who first arrived in Kirkland, Washington, in late February, after residents at the Life Care Center nursing home started getting sick and dying. They stayed through March when, for a brief sliver of time (those were the early days), the suburban facility accounted for more than half of all known coronavirus deaths in the country. It seemed like a hellscape then. America’s viral ground zero. All those old, frail bodies, defenseless and exposed. But, of course, it got worse.
Susan didn’t mind the journalists and photographers outside the nursing home, though she wished her hair looked a little nicer. Mostly, she was sick of looking out at the world but not being able to touch it. She had come to the Life Care Center in November for just a few weeks of rehab after a knee surgery. The idea had been that she would get better quickly and that as soon as she could climb a dozen steps on her own, she would move into the second floor of Carmen’s house. But then everything went awry.
I never had children. I look after seniors instead. I didn’t plan it this way; life just happened. After losing both of my parents, I’ve adopted the...