SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Many families went months or even more than a year without seeing each other due to the pandemic, but people who have family living in other countries have had to wait even longer to see their loved ones in person.
Arleigh Trainor grew up in Manitoba, Canada, not far from the American border.
“I did the very end of my undergrad in the U.S. and I dated an American boy. We dated long-distance across the border for about 4.5 years and we ended up getting married, he’s from Minnesota,” Trainor said.
A marriage that first had her husband emigrating to Canada, but then in their early 30s they decided to go back to school.
“We applied on both sides of the border, me for MD and him for PhD. We both got in in the US. So we emigrated back to the U.S. and have been here ever since,” Trainor said.
After 10 years of building their professional careers and lives together in Sioux Falls, Arleigh now has just pictures and memories of their love that crossed international borders.
“We thought he was in remission, we were just finishing treatment, then the cancer came back and he passed away in 2020,” Trainor said.
Her husband Casey, a longtime professor at Augustana University, died last February…
“It was the last funeral before covid shut everything down,” she said.
…just weeks before the pandemic hit.
“I just had to go back to work and take care of people because that’s your calling, I had to go back to work and help,” Trainor said.
As a doctor in Sanford’s emergency room, Arleigh spent her first year as a widow on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.
“It’s been very hard this year for me personally, but also challenging professionally. Your heart just breaks as you see so many family members going through because of covid what I went through because of cancer,” she said.
Watching countless other families lose loved ones too soon was an all too familiar feeling.
“My heart goes out to people, I know how difficult it’s been for me, I can’t imagine not being able to be with your loved one in person during that time period. Not being able to gather together to celebrate them and their passing and their life,” Trainor said.
While she’ll always be thankful she was able to be with her husband when he passed, the pandemic still impacted her grieving process.
“Being a new widow, you really want to see your family. It’s a new reality of knowing how short of time we have,” she said.
But her parents are her only remaining family, and they live just across the border in Canada.
“It was challenging to grieve all on my own, it was just me for my bubble. My mom was supposed to move in with me for a period of time, then the pandemic hit and she had to get back to Canada because they were closing the border,” Trainor said.
But when they said their goodbyes back in March of 2020, neither of them had any idea it would be for so long.
“This is us Zooming Thanksgiving,” Trainor said.
While her parents learned how to Zoom and Facetime, seeing each other in person wasn’t possible while the border remained closed to travelers.
“I’ve been waiting and watching for well over a year now, watching for that so I could go visit,” she said.
Then this July, Canada announced it would be allowing Americans to travel into Canada starting August 9th.
“The lines might be very, very long, so I have to gas up the car so that you’re ready to get in your place in line first thing.
Hundreds of people waiting to see loved ones in Canada filed through the border crossing that first day; Trainor was one of the first in line at the North Dakota border.
“It might be 30 minutes to get through the border, it might be five hours, we’ll just have to wait and see. I’ve been waiting a long time to go and see my folks,” she said.
“Oh I am just so excited to have my daughter here, ohh I can’t believe it,” Arleigh’s mom said.
Then that magic moment finally came, the chance to hug and hold onto her parents in person.
“I’m Arleigh’s dad and we are sure very happy to have her with us these days after this long long wait,” Trainor’s dad said.
A reason to celebrate, after a year of so much heartache; the open border finally bringing some joy.
“We’re so excited to be together,” Trainor said.
Throughout much of the pandemic air travel was permitted between the two countries, but Arleigh and her parents aren’t comfortable flying due to covid.
They are thrilled Arleigh can now drive to see her parents, but they’re still anxiously awaiting the time America will open its border to Canadians, so her mom can come back to Sioux Falls to visit.