The bench in Sendall Gardens in Langley City commemorating Liane Hunter. (Ken Hunter/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

COVID disrupts goodbyes and grieving for Langley family

Ken Hunter lost his mother and wife while navigating lockdowns last year

The coronavirus pandemic of the past year has taken a toll of lives over the last year, but it has also taken a toll on those going through loss that had nothing to do with the virus.

Langley City’s Ken Hunter has spent much of the last year dealing with grief after losing his wife and mother at the very beginning of the pandemic.

Ken and Liane Baron Hunter had raised two kids, Josh and Madison, in Langley City and enjoyed travelling together. It was on a 2017 trip to Paris to see Jimmy Buffett perform that Liane started seeing the first symptoms, but it wasn’t until 2019 she started suffering falls.

That year, a CT scan at Langley Memorial was followed by an immediate trip to Royal Columbian Hospital and a meeting with a neurosurgeon.

She was in surgery by Aug. 2 to have a mass removed from her brain. On Aug. 27, three days after attending their son Josh’s wedding at Fort Langley Community Hall, the Hunters learned it was definitely cancer.

“We knew the ending,” Ken said.

Liane wasn’t expected to survive, but surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation could buy her time with her family.

Liane’s health got worse into early 2020, and then the coronavirus hit.

She was going through chemotherapy in March when the virus arrived, so her immune system was particularly vulnerable, Ken noted.

Then in the spring, the tragedies piled up.

One of the family’s two beloved dogs, Jake, died in Liane’s arms in their back yard in April.

On April 20, Ken’s mother Charlene, who had been in care suffering from dementia, died a day after taking a fall.

Liane went into palliative care at Langley Hospice Society’s facility not long after that. She died 12 days after Charlene.

“Meanwhile, COVID was happening, so no one could be together,” Ken said.

The border to the United States had slammed shut for non-essential travellers, cutting off the half of their family that lived around the Seattle area. Local friends and family couldn’t come by the house to see Liane.

“Normally, people could come and basically say goodbye,” Ken said.

Ken was grateful that the hospice allowed him to stay with Liane almost 24 hours a day at the end, and their children got to see her as well.

READ ALSO: Outrunning COVID – Langley senior starts a walking club

READ ALSO: Brew being poured in aid of Langley Hospice

While he had a year defined by grief, Ken knows he’s not the only one dealing with tragedies while COVID makes everything more difficult.

“There’s people in the hospital that can’t have their people there, there’s people that are dying alone,” he said. “So I don’t complain about what I’ve gone through.”

“Maybe my story can help other people, so they don’t feel alone,” he said.

In the aftermath, there haven’t been funerals or celebrations of life for Liane or Ken’s mother Charlene.

It didn’t feel right to hold an event when so many people wouldn’t be able to come, Ken said.

Instead, the family had a bench placed in Langley City’s Sendall Gardens in Liane’s memory.

“It’s absolutely stunning,” he said.

“It’s given them a place to go talk to Liane,” he said.

There will be a celebration of life eventually, when people can travel and gather again, said Ken. He hopes they’ll be able to walk from his house down to Sendall Gardens and visit Liane’s bench together.

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