More than COVID: Gwen Wilson, 72, expert quilter and loving Overland Park grandmother

Gwen Wilson

"It’s in the quiet moments, the mundane events of life that bring the most pain. I miss calling her and texting her, sending her pictures of the grandkids and hearing her response, fawning over them like only a grandma can," Erin Reiner writes about her mother Gwen Wilson, above, who died from COVID-19 in February. Image submitted by Erin Reiner.

The Shawnee Mission Post is telling the stories of those in Johnson County who have been lost to COVID-19. For their family and friends, they were more than just another death from COVID. They were more than just a data point or number. If you have a loved one or friend who lived or worked in Johnson County and died of COVID-19, and think their life story needs to be known, we’d like to hear form you. Email the Post at stories@shawneemissionpost.com.

The following remembrance was submitted by Erin Reiner. 

On February 4, 2021, my world as I knew it, crumbled. I lost my mom, my kids lost their grandma and my own grandmother — my mother’s mother — lost her daughter.

My mom, Gwen Wilson, a resident of Johnson County for 40 years, fought COVID for a month before succumbing to its devastating impacts.

It was a torturous month and a rollercoaster of emotions. With the worst being that we were told we could not be by her side to comfort her in those final moments, due to the pandemic. There is still so much shock not only that my mom died – but to COVID.

It is a gut-wrenching reality that I still haven’t fully processed or accepted. But her death doesn’t define her life. She was so much more than a victim of COVID.

She loved her kids and grandkids without question. She had a quiet demeanor, a generous spirit and was a loyal friend.

Gwen Wilson with her daughter Erin Reiner, the author of this remembrance, and Reiner’s four children, Wilson’s grandchildren. Image submitted by Erin Reiner.

If you had the privilege of seeing her quilts, you’d see how talented she was at piecing together various colors and patterns and hand-quilting them together. My mom was immensely talented in that regard, and she loved to share that gift with others. She used those talents to make quilts and lap blankets for Hope House and warm babies in the NICU.

My mom was an avid bowler and had quite a few trophies to show for her skill. I always marveled at her form. I’ll miss the feeling of coming home, spending birthdays and Christmases together and cheering on her beloved Chiefs.

It’s in the quiet moments, the mundane events of life that bring the most pain. There is no one quite like your mom to listen to you, to offer advice, to love you unconditionally. I miss calling her and texting her, sending her pictures of the grandkids and hearing her response, fawning over them like only a grandma can.

The U.S. continues to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks and surging case numbers, even as we struggle as a society to return to normalcy.

As that all happens, I hope there is compassion for us, those families who have been devastated by the impacts and can’t fully return to normal. We grieve not just the “lost year”, but the year where our world was shattered. I do not get the luxury of returning to normal, instead I have to forge a new path without my mom.

My wish is that in a year, 5 years or 10 years from now, when this pandemic is part of the past, that those lives we lost, the people we love are not blended into the statistics.

Rather, they are remembered for who they were – mothers and grandmothers and sisters and brothers who left behind families who miss them dearly. I know I will grieve for the rest of my life, because where there is deep grief, there was deep love.

Gwen Wilson of Overland Park is survived by her mother Margaret Rindom, son Kyle Wilson, daughter Erin Reiner, son-in-law Eric Reiner and four grandchildren. You can read a full obituary here