CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. — A Cleveland County man always said his mother’s spirit was with him, but he never knew her voice was in his pocket until he discovered an audio message.
“Hey Wes, this is Jan. Give me a call sometime this evening. Thank you. I love you,” the recording said.
Janice Greene was one of the first people in Cleveland County to die from COVID-19. She was staying at an assisted living facility in Shelby when she died on Easter last year.
“Just hearing her voice,” her son Wes Leonhardt said.
It was hard for him to explain how much it means. The message is from 2010. It’s Greene’s voice before dementia gripped her mind and COVID-19 took her life.
Leonhardt forgot he kept it, but won’t forget it again.
Greene owned Jan’s Restaurant, and now before someone enters, they will see an image of a golden finch in her memory.
Leonhardt believes that after his mom died, her spirit came back to him in a finch that watched him in his home. That was as close as he said he felt to his mother since last Easter, until he came across the audio of her while deleting old messages.
For the first time in his life, Leonhardt will have an Easter with his mother gone, and strong memories of last year.
“Easter will always be the day for me,” he said. “It’s a difficult thing to go through with a loved one.”
Since Greene’s death, about 200 more people in Cleveland County have died of COVID-19. 10,000 were diagnosed, including Leonhardt, just before Christmas.
“[I] still [have] no sense of smell,” he said.
But Leonhardt is alive and had proof that his mother is still with him.
He has one other voice message from his mother. He plans to share both of them with his sister this Easter at a celebration of Greene’s life.