“My dad was a month shy of turning, 69. He lived in Miami, where I was born and raised. He caught COVID during the shutdown. He went to the hospital on Saturday, April 4 because he had a fever he couldn’t break. He got scared and called the ambulance. The fever broke on Sunday and he felt better. I spoke to him Monday afternoon at about 3:00 and he seemed good. Since no one could be in the hospital with him, my family had our designated times to call and check in. My cousin spoke to him that night. Dad told her not to call again because he couldn’t talk anymore and sounded out of breath. I got a call from my cousin Tuesday morning and she told me he had been taken to ICU and went on the ventilator
I felt helpless because I couldn’t go to him. I live in Mobile and Florida closed off the border. Hospitals were closed to anyone but patients.
Dad spent eight days on a ventilator and was put on dialysis. We called the nurse’s station for updates. On April 14, I called mid-afternoon and no one answered the phone. I called an hour later and talked to the doctor. I was listed as next of kin, but the doctor didn’t know that no one told me my dad passed away. They didn’t answer the phone because everyone left the station to answer the code when my dad was dying. My dad died alone without anyone who loved him.
Losing someone is hard enough, but we also couldn’t have a funeral at that time. My brother and I decided to cremate him instead of paying $10,000 for a funeral that no one could attend. Cremation is not traditional in our culture and some of our family was upset.
It bothered me when people compared COVID to the flu. With the flu, you could still visit people and be with loved ones. You could still have funerals.
I couldn’t collect my dad’s things because they were lost by the hospital. His phone, his glasses and clothes. He had pictures of our last visits on his phone and I wanted them. We were able to see him more the past year. He came to see us In December and we went to see him on Mardi Gras break. Now all of those pictures are lost.
After he died, I still couldn’t get to Florida to clean out his apartment. The landlord threatened to throw everything out. We sent another month’s payment and hoped that he left the stuff alone.
My dad always checked on us to make sure we were okay. But I got his bank records and saw he went to T-Mobile and the grocery store to pay his phone bill and to buy groceries while he should have been at home. I wish I had told him about grocery delivery. We think that is a possibility for how he caught it.
Dad had pre-existing conditions. That is a battle I have had to fight about COVID. He was very healthy before he caught the Coronavirus. He was once an alcoholic and smoked three-packs of cigarettes a day. He quit cold turkey and changed his lifestyle after he had a heart attack in his 40’s. After that, he exercised and ate healthy. We didn’t know he had diabetes until he was hospitalized because he managed it with diet. If he hadn’t caught COVID, we think he still had 10-15 years left. The analogy is if a runner with diabetes is attacked by a bear and then passes away in the hospital because they couldn’t control her blood sugar. She didn’t die because she had diabetes, she died because the bear attacked her. If the bear didn’t attack her, she would have managed her diabetes and still be alive.
I went into depression after my dad died. My mom lives with us and I was extra cautious because I couldn’t go through that again. I wouldn’t go anywhere for months. I still don’t hug on her or get close. I am a school teacher and I am scared of what I could bring home. My girls are still in virtual school because my mom picked them up each afternoon and was with them until I got home from school. I am doing everything I can to protect her. Some people say I am living in fear, but we get out and do things we know we can do safely at a distance.
My dad was a quiet person. He disciplined us without us knowing it. He could be fun but he quickly had a look that showed he meant business. I do that too. He held my hand until I was 12 or 13 and his nickname for me was Mimi. No one else called me that. I got my love of dancing from him. He choreographed dances for quinces, birthday parties for 15-year-old girls.
My dad is Cuban but came to Miami during the boat lifts in the ‘80s. He was a political prisoner and went to jail in Cuba for writing on a wall for Fidel Castro to go down. He came to the U.S. for asylum.
My dad lived his life until the end and I was the apple of his eye. We couldn’t talk him into moving to Mobile because he loved his life in Miami.
I now wear a gold cross with an imprint of his fingerprint for protection and a reminder of him. When I get anxious, I rub his fingerprint to calm down. My brother and his wife had been trying for years to have a baby. They found out she was pregnant while my dad was in the hospital. He will never hold his granddaughter. I would not want anyone to go through losing a loved one love like this.”
(As the number of Coronavirus deaths increase, I want to share stories of some of the lives behind the numbers to help us understand who we have lost to the pandemic. Message me if you would like to share a story of a loved one.)