Pat Schiebel’s family visits will have to be socially distant for now. Right, Janine and Frederic Ludwig with their two children. Photo courtesy Schiebel and Ludwig families

Bittersweet twist to a special day

By  Wendy-Ann Clarke, Catholic Register Special
  • May 8, 2020

Mother Teresa was once famously quoted as saying, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

As Mother’s Day is celebrated in the midst of a global pandemic, her words hit home like never before.

The impact of COVID-19 has compounded the challenges of family life in households across the world, and perhaps evoked an even deeper appreciation and sense of gratitude for the role of mothers. In the face of economic uncertainty, families are managing the added stressor of having to homeschool young children, while many frontline workers are conflicted with the daily possibility of bringing the virus back to their children or aging parents. Regretfully, thousands today are mourning the loss of loved ones and many more enduring the pain of touchless visitation due to social distancing requirements.

“The long-term care centre where my mother is living had an outbreak and went into lockdown mode a bit before St. Patrick’s Day (March 17),” recalled John Schiebel, the youngest of six siblings, whose mother will turn 97 years old in October. “Several staff and residents tested positive for the virus and that included my mother.”

The siblings had been rotating almost daily visits to their mother, Pat, at the Lanark Retirement Residence in Waterloo for the past three years right up until the pandemic. With the help of technology and the staff at the home, the siblings and their families have been able to continue communicating with their mother through phone calls and visits to the window of the residence. The family says they recognize that despite the difficulties they’ve endured, they are among the fortunate ones.

“She’s the matriarch of our family and along with our dad who passed eight years ago grounded us in our faith,” said John. “My siblings and I have prepared for the worst but thankfully her symptoms have been mild and she appears to be on her way to recovery. We’re blessed to still have her with us.”

A devoted Roman Catholic of Irish and Finnish descent, Pat grew up during the Great Depression and worked as a schoolteacher in the Kitchener-Waterloo Catholic school board. Her family means everything to her, which is something John says will make this time of year somewhat bittersweet.

“This Mother’s Day is going to stand out for sure because we don’t think we are going to get back in to touch our mom,” said John. “Normally we would take her out to dinner and my wife and I and our granddaughter would come back and snuggle up on the same bed with her. We’re looking forward to doing that again one day.”

COVID-19 has only added to the whirlwind journey that Janine and Frederic Ludwig have had over the past five years.

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Janine met Frederic on the dating website The two fell in love, married in 2015 and since then have had two daughters. Following their wedding the couple moved to San Diego, Calif., where Frederic works as a lawyer. Janine, a chiropractor, moved her practice to San Diego and has been on maternity leave since giving birth to their oldest daughter four years ago. She has adjusted quickly to all the life changes and says staying connected with family in Canada has been integral.

“It’s always been lots of FaceTime and text messages and that kind of thing with my family back home,” said Janine, whose mother works as a teacher and father a farmer.

“We had planned to go back to Canada for a visit in July but we’re assuming that won’t happen. We wanted the girls to be run around on the farm and have that experience. We’re hoping we can still get there in the fall.”

Frederic’s mother lives close by and has normally been a big help in the child rearing, but like many families, due to social distancing, she has not been able to spend time with her granddaughters.

Janine has been leaning on support of the mother’s group at their church in San Diego through Skype calls, and as well taking advantage of online programming for their oldest daughter. Frederic has been able to continue his practice as a lawyer and says he has marvelled at the way his wife has adjusted to all their life changes and looks forward to celebrating her in a special way this Mother’s Day.

“She’s a natural at it,” said Frederic. “I don’t think she gets enough credit for all she does and the level of where she does it. I recognize there’s been an extra demand on mothers during this time.

“I’m blessed to have her as a wife and the girls are blessed to have her as a mother.”

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