Ridgefield vigil at a mother’s death: son watched at her window

Perched in a chair on an outdoor balcony near her window, Bill Mason waited as his mother died at Ridgefield Crossings after contracting what he said was coronavirus.

He had set up the chair and sat there at the assisted living facility the day before, too, his feet in a puddle, until the evening darkened and it began to rain some more.

No matter; he wanted to be with her at the end.

“I just wanted her to go up and be with daddy again,” he said shortly after her death Tuesday. “Even if she didn’t recognize me — if she opened her eyes and looked out the window she’d see my face.”

Dorothy “Dottie” Mason, his 88-year-old mom, was among those who tested positive for coronavirus at the seniors facility, he said.

Benchmark Senior Living has not confirmed Dorothy Mason’s death, and said in a statement they could not comment on a specific family or resident, but “have endeavored to provide compassionate care under these difficult circumstances.”

On Thursday, town officials did confirm that three more residents of Ridgefield Crossings had died after contracting the disease, bringing its death toll to nine.

So far, officials at Benchmark have confirmed at least 22 people, both residents and employees, that have tested positive for the disease.

Before Dorothy Mason’s death, at least six residents of the facility died from coronavirus, according to Ridgefield officials.

On March 13, Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order went into effect, allowing public health officials to limit visitors to nursing homes.

Ridgefield Crossings, an assisted-living facility followed suit. An 88-year-old man who had been living there became the first person in Connecticut to die from COVID-19.

Benchmark said family members are allowed to visit during end-of-life care, including residents with coronavirus, provided they wear protective equipment.

Mason, a Danbury resident now in his 60s, said he knew staff would have let him in his mother’s room, but he decided to stay out to prevent putting other family members at risk of the illness — and because he’d have to quarantine himself for 14 days afterward. Tuesday also was the day he was scheduled to have a hip replacement, but he canceled to be with his mon.

Mason was not entirely happy with his mom’s situation at the facility. He said he had received spotty and sometimes contradictory updates on her condition from Benchmark during the chaos of the pandemic.

In a statement, Benchmark Senior Living said the “health and safety of our residents and associates are always our top priority,” and that they “sympathize with the difficulties that our residents and their loved ones may face during this unprecedented time, particularly during end of life care.”

For his part, Mason said he was grateful for those last hours with his mother.

“I’m fortunate she had a window,” he said.

He was able to speak to his mother about two weeks ago, before the facility closed to visitors, he said. And this past weekend “she was in fine health except for the dementia,” Mason said.

But then, very quickly, her health deteriorated.

“Suddenly — boom,” she was struggling for breath and unconscious, he said.

Dottie Mason grew up during the Great Depression, her son recalled. She dropped out of high school and began working in a bakery, eventually meeting Bill Mason’s father, to whom she was married to for 69 years.

The two raised three children in a house in North Bergen, N.J., where they spent summers swimming in a pool and holding barbecues in the backyard, Mason recalled.

“Life was great,” he said.

Long after her son outgrew the Cub Scouts, Dorothy Mason stayed involved, he said.

“She was a sweetheart she would do anything for anyone,” Mason said.

While he was still able to visit her, Mason said he would come by three times a week “to be able to hold her hand,” he said.

“Even if I came for 15 to 20 minutes — to see her smile would make my day,” he said. “Now I’m never gonna see that smile again.”