Six months ago, my world was turned upside down with one phone call. At 7:15 p.m. on April 29th, I learned my healthy, brave, and heroic husband went into cardiac arrest and lost his battle with COVID. I still vividly remember the immediate pain and heartache that raced through my body as I realized the person I planned to spend the rest of my life with was gone.
It had been a month-long battle that had started with a cough the day after my daughter’s second birthday. We knew there was a chance it could be more than just a cough since Martin worked in a hospital and saw patients who had difficulty swallowing. Being the responsible person he was, he tried to get tested immediately, but all the testing sites had already run out of tests. He seemed fine the first few days but then the fever started. That was when I knew it probably was COVID. He finally got tested 4 days after his first attempt and four days later his test came back positive for COVID.
After getting the results that Monday, I noticed my husband slept more, his fever kept rising, he didn’t have much of an appetite, and he forced himself to drink fluids. The one thing I asked him everyday was, “Can you breathe?” He would always answer “Yes,” and I would feel at ease. After all, back in April, not being able to breathe was when you were told that you should go to the hospital. My husband answered “Yes” everyday until the morning of April 3rd, when I heard him gasping for air, and that is when I called 911.
He was taken out of our house on a stretcher and that was the last time I saw my husband. What followed was 26 days of absolute anguish as I went through the most intense roller coaster ride of my life. I basically lived around phone calls to the hospital because that was the only way I could get information about how he was doing. Let me tell you, making those phone calls was absolutely draining, both physically and mentally. There were times that it took me forever to get in touch with someone. There were times I would be told someone would call me back and hours would pass and when I didn’t receive the call I would have to start the process all over again. There was one day about a week before he died that I didn’t find out until 11 a.m. that my husband’s heart stopped for 20 seconds in the middle of the night! After that, I could no longer believe no news was good news.
There were days that I would get an update that indicated things were going in the right direction to recovery and within hours I would learn that he took a step backwards and all the anxiety and worry would come flooding back. That was my life for 26 days. When I received that final call, I knew. I knew Martin lost his fight. I knew I would never hear him say “I love you” again. I knew my life was forever changed. I just knew. My first two thoughts after I received that call were: How was I going to tell our two-year-old daughter that Papa didn’t get better and was never coming home? How was I going to make sure our 5-month-old son will grow up knowing what an amazing Papa he had and how much his Papa loved him?
So six months later as I heal from the devastating loss my family endured, I am faced with a whole new set of life challenges. Being a single mom to a two-and-a-half-year-old and one-year-old is exhausting, especially when you are trying everything you possibly can to help your daughter both heal and understand what happened to Papa. Those moments when I see that look in her eye that she is thinking about Papa and missing him, breaks my heart. She is only two-and-a-half and shouldn’t be going through the trauma of losing her Papa. Yet, I have learned that those “stare into space” moments are the best time to talk about him with her, and it truly amazes me how much remembers about her Papa. After all, she was a “Daddy’s Girl.”
When I look at my son and see his Papa’s smile, I am filled with both joy and heartache. Joy because I know how proud my husband would be at the little toddler our baby is becoming, and heartache because my son will truly have no memories of his Papa. Moments like those remind me why it is so important for me to keep his memory alive each and every day. Every night when I put my son and daughter to bed, they kiss their Papa goodnight. As we put his picture down, I remind them that he is in heaven watching over them because he loves them and misses them so much just like we love and miss him. When they reach for his picture and kiss him, I know I am doing what I need to do so that they will always remember their Papa.
Even after six months, I am still dealing with the heartache that COVID has caused me. I am a young widow who has had to adjust to a “new” life and self as I continue to heal. I am still trying to figure out being a single mommy to two very young children. Those tasks can be completely overwhelming at times. I will be honest, when my husband died I thought I was the only one with young children going through this pain. It wasn’t until I received a beautiful card in the mail from someone else experiencing the same pain and heartache, that I realized I wasn’t alone in this. Fast forward six months later, I decided to create a Facebook group for young widows and widowers who lost their spouse to COVID. Knowing that you are not alone in this makes all the difference in the world, and I knew that we needed to come together to support and encourage each other so we can get through this. COVID took our life partners away from us, but brought us together so we can embark on this journey to our “new normal” together.
The pain and grief of losing the love of your life to COVID is impossible to understand unless you have experienced it yourself. My life, as well as my children’s, has been forever changed. All I can do now is share our story and move forward with my life.