My mom just brought my dad’s ashes home. He is finally home . . . just not how we thought we’d be able to bring him home. My chest aches. For those who still think COVID-19 is not real or not a big deal, I’m unfortunately here to say it’s been more real to my family and friends than we ever wanted it to be. My dad was a healthy, active, 71-year-old with no pre-existing conditions. The only thing he had against him was his age.

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Did he beat the actual virus? Yes. But was his body healthy enough and strong enough after the virus ravaged his body for weeks on end? No.

This virus is relentless and shows no mercy.

For two and a half months, my family clung onto a single daily update from my dad’s doctors or nurses while he lay alone in a hospital room with dozens of tubes, wires, and machines hooked up to him. There were some OK days and many really, really bad days. I slept with my phone in my hand on those bad days. The rest of the days, I slept with my phone no further than my pillow on my bed. I took my phone into the shower and bathroom with me.

I was afraid to go to sleep at night. I was afraid to do anything. I felt like I was holding my breath for all of those weeks. The last time I got to hear my dad’s voice was the day after he was admitted on March 28th. I called him and as soon as he answered, I heard the sorrow in his voice, “I’m positive.”

For the last two and a half months of his life, he had no voice because of the ventilator and trach. The only faces he saw were ones covered with masks. I had to witness my dad, the strongest person I know, come to the realization that his body couldn’t fight any longer.

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I had to watch my babies say good-bye to their Yeh Yeh as he mustered as much strength as he could to look them in the eye and blow them kisses. I had to watch my mom make an unbearable decision while she held my dad’s hand and told him she would miss him forever and to wait for her so they could be together for eternity. We had to watch the nurses slowly turn off one machine at a time and hold my mom up as my dad slipped away, so she wouldn’t crumble to the ground.

People say it only affects older people. My dad was not only. He was everything.

We all want life to be normal again, but take this seriously while we are still in the midst of this monster. Listen to what the doctors are telling us and protect yourself and those around you. A mask is a small inconvenience that can help save a life. If I can prevent just one family from having to go through what we did, I will.

Previously published on Nebraska Medicine

Anne Peterson

My name is Anne Peterson. I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. I've been married to my husband Dean for 15 years, and we have two amazing daughters, Ayla (11) and Aubree (9).