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The long lasting grief of losing of loved one to COVID-19, we hear from two local residents

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Justin DoCanto
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Erica Ramirez lost her father Ricardo to COVID-19 in early 2021. She told her father as he passed away that she would see him in every butterfly. 

The story comes from KCLU’s podcast The One Oh One. You can listen to the full episode here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a traumatic experience for most of us. The fear and confusion in the early days. The isolation and loneliness that came with months of lockdowns. The uncertainty and stress that was felt with layoffs and school closures.

And then there is the grief of losing a loved one to COVID-19.

Today you’ll hear from two people from our local community still feeling that grief - and you’ll hear from them completely in their own words.

Kac Young remembering her wife Marlene Morris

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Kac Young
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Kac Young (right) and her wife Marlene Morris. Marlene died from COVID-19 in early 2022.

“My name is Kac Young. Reverend Dr. Kac Young and I lost my wife, the beautiful and talented Marlene Morris, to COVID 19 in March of 2022. She was 77 glorious years old.

Marlene was a minister in religious science. She was beloved by her congregation, and she took a church of about 40 people and turned it into 400 within a couple of years. She was a dynamic speaker and inspirational person. Speaking was her gift.

She was full of love, generosity, forgiveness, and she was kind to everybody. She had an amazing smile that she just used all the time to brighten the world.

She and I were married for 20 years and we traveled the world when she wasn't working at the things she loved to do best.

She did have an underlying condition called Wegener's granulomatosis, but that was managed by a lot of immunosuppressive drugs. And she did well. She managed that very well.

She loved to travel. She loved music. We had a box at the Hollywood Bowl for many years, and we enjoyed every Thursday night the classical music. I remember lugging all of our picnic food up that hill all the time.

We were very good at getting all the vaccines and boosters at the correct times, and we even stayed inside. And she thought that she had some protection.

And what happened is she went down to the lab to get her blood work done and wearing a mask, and she contracted COVID.

When she went to be admitted to the hospital. They didn't take her the first night. So she came back home and I was with her for ten days while she had COVID. And finally she became so ill with it that I called an ambulance and they took her to the hospital and she was admitted. She died six weeks later after they did what they could.

My life without her is very sad and difficult. You know, I found out that the world is not very kind when you're trying to hold back the tears and still negotiate with the banks and the credit card companies and all of that. I really think the world could use a dose of kindness for those who are in grief about the loss of a loved one.

My life will never be the same without Marlene. How could it be? She was one of a kind. And I am grateful, deeply grateful to have been her best friend, her confidant, and her partner for 20 years. She had many more years of life in her and the chance to do more good in the world, which was her number one mission.

I remember one time it was my 60th birthday and Marlene said, ‘What would you like for your 60th?’ And I said, ‘I would like poems from you’. She said, ‘Oh, you'd like me to write you a poem’. And I said, ‘Oh, no, I'd like you to write me 60 poems’. And she said, ‘60. Okay. Well, I better get started. I'm glad I asked you early’. Not only did she write 60 poems, but she published them in a book for me, which was lovely. I like to read you just one of them.

When the sun sets upon your dreams. May the gift of grief guide you to the edge of your known world. To that horizon where heaven and earth meet. And may you discover there that the sun also rises.

– Kac Young remembering her wife Marlene Morris.

Erica Ramirez remembering her father Ricardo Ramirez

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Erica Ramirez as a child with her father Ricardo Ramirez. Ricardo died from COVID-19 in early 2021.

Originally I was due to speak with Ricardo's sister Carmen Ramirez. Before I was able to interview Carmen, she was tragically killed in a car accident in Oxnard.

The family still wanted us to know about Ricardo’s life.

Here is his daughter Erica sharing the life of her father in her own words.

“My name is Erica Ramirez. I lost my father, Ricardo Ramirez, to COVID 19 in early 2021. Actually it was before the first couple vaccines were rolled out.

He had just celebrated his 64th birthday the previous year in the pandemic, and we were all on Zoom and we were looking forward to perhaps maybe the following year, 2021, to be able to see each other in person.

He was an electrician for many years, since he had started in the Army. He got placed into the electrician's program and he was in the Corps of Engineers for 20 years. And for most of his life there, he didn't really spend it in combat, but he actually was spent helping other neighborhoods so he helped after natural disasters and things like that.

He had telescopes and he would show me what planets were and he would take me to the aquarium and show me what all these creatures were under the sea. He even had this lifelong dream of sailing around the world.

Although he retired from the Army, he actually spent quite a few years still working as an electrician. He kept retiring and then going back to work. I don't know why, but he did. And so finally, though, he did retire, I think in 2020, around that time when the pandemic was happening, he ended up finding this huge boat that he was planning to use to finally go sail around the world.

He originally thought it was just a cold and he thought that maybe he'd got it before and so he was going to be fine. And then he ended up having to get put into the hospital.

He was struggling to even talk because of how much it was affecting his lungs. At that point, we found out he was going to get a ventilator, I think it was on a Saturday or a Sunday.

From what he could barely say, he was saying that he was going to be on a ventilator and that he was going to feel better in a few days. And so you're trying to hold a brave face, trying not to cry in the.. in the face time. But you can't really keep yourself together at a time like that. So I remember crying with my brother and thinking that this might be the last time that we would get to talk to him, but really hoping that it wouldn't be.

As things were starting to progress, his lungs just weren't able to put up with it because as I said, he was an electrician, so he worked in lots of places where it was just bad for the lungs. So his last job was a place that burns trash.

And so then he was on the ventilator and then that's when the hospital put together a team. It was almost like a hospice kind of team.

I put together a playlist for him. I distinctly remember this because I wanted him to be able to hear things while he was on the ventilator. And he loved music. You love classic rock and roll.

His kidneys were starting to fail. And then we were faced with having to make a decision on whether to keep him on a ventilator or to let him pass peacefully. And I... it was… it was a hard place to be in, because I'm just a daughter. And I've never lost a parent before. We knew that he was somebody that never wanted to be a vegetable per se, like he didn't want to just be living if it was just going to be a machine keeping him alive so I kept that in mind.

We couldn't even be there in the room with him. I remember I really wanted to, because I had gotten one shot of the vaccine. I was like, Well, maybe they'll let me go in there. I have all this PPE. I said, I worked in the labs. I brought a hazmat suit. I brought everything I could to see if I could go in there. But then I was faced with the decision. I could go in there maybe and be with him, but then afterwards I would have to quarantine for two weeks and I wouldn't be able to hug any of my family for that time.

So the doctor staff really didn't want me to be in the room because I guess when you take off the ventilator, you're exposed to a lot of particles. So I couldn't be there with him, but I was outside the door with my Tia Carmen [Ramirez].

I was just trying to tell him things that would make him feel like we were going to be okay if he did leave and I was trying not to cry, of course, I just cried, like, the whole time.

I remember telling him that in that same sentence that I was going to see him in every butterfly that I saw flying around. I told him that I would know he was there.

Maybe he's out there finally sailing and he is watching over me and every butterfly. And that’s something I had to keep telling myself as time went by.”

– Erica Ramirez remembering her father Ricardo Ramirez.

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