The COVID-19 pandemic has stripped away the normal ways of saying our last goodbyes, before and after death.
Containing the virus means no deathbed visits, and no funerals.
For many, the virus has robbed many families from one last hug or kiss goodbye.
For Denise Feraci that was the hardest part.
She had to say goodbye to her 79-year-old father Dennis Richard through FaceTime, as his body could no longer fight COVID-19 at the St. Tammany Parish Hospital.
“I said I love you dad about a million times,” said Feraci. “He kept saying I love you bigger, I love you bigger. He blew me a kiss and that was it. Nobody should have to go through that.”
That was the last time Denise would talk to Richard known as Pawpaw to the family before he passed away.
The nurse helped Pawpaw FaceTime Feraci, her two kids and Richard’s wife of more than 56 years.
As he tried to talk to his loved ones, Feraci said he was struggling to breathe, but he was just asking how things were going just like any other conversation. To Feraci she said the whole moment was just unreal.
Moments later Richard breathed his last breath.
“It was just that much of a rapid decline,” said Feraci. ‘It just suffocates you. I guess your lungs just shut down.”
There were no hugs or kisses goodbye just a FaceTime call and then he was gone.
“We went from dad was thinking dad was going to be home in a couple days to we’re never going to see him again,“ said Feraci.
A gastrointestinal infection landed him in the hospital in mid-March. He ended up having to have emergency surgery.
After he came home, he started running a fever. His fever went to 103. They thought it was an infection from the surgery and sent him back to the hospital.
He was positive for COVID-19.
None of his family members could go in with him. So they’re thankful the nurse let them FaceTime, but now that he’s gone the family is still in shock.
“It’s unbelievable because my dad was literally our hero,” said Feraci.
Richard was an airforce vet, a retired detective and a man who loved his family.
“He was incredibly amazing and taught us so many things we will pass on,” said Feraci.
Feraci said Pawpaw would also be a mentor for kids, a friend to many and was a man who had a heart of gold.
“He was an amazing grandfather, great grandfather and father,” said Feraci. “To see him at that point was just devastating. You know helpless.”
His wife Connie who met Richard when she was 17. She now grieves alone in her home after losing the love of her life to this virus.
Her family can’t be together with everyone worried about heath, but they bring her groceries on her porch and the great-grandkids tape drawings to her windows to show her love and be there when they can’t.
This was something they never thought would happen to their family.
“I would’ve certainly never thought that he would get it for my mom and get it,” said Feraci. “They don’t go anywhere except for my house, church and that’s about”
Unfortunately, his is the hard new reality that is shattering families all across Louisiana.
“When you go to the hospital you can’t go with them,” said Feraci. “It doesn’t matter how old or how young they are. They’re going to be all alone.”
Now the family can’t get closure as his wife, daughter and son in law are all now Covid-19 positive.
“We can’t even honor this amazing man right now in a memorial service, because we can’t get together,” said Feraci. “We can’t support each other.”
With Covid 19’s death toll rising each day, Feraci doesn’t want her father to be just another number.
“He deserves to have his story told,” said Feraci. “He didn’t deserve to die alone. No one does. If my family can quarantine right now and not break it as much as we need to be together. I think anybody can. It’s not too much to ask to stay at home.“
Now the family is just left heartbroken with only memories.
Memories of a man who Feraci says still should have more time to spend with his family.
“I love you bigger daddy,” said Feraci. “I love you bigger.”