Covid 19 Hits Home

Stay home.Stay safe.

Today’s blog is more for me than anyone else. Late nights are difficult right now and as a creative I need to share.

Covid 19 hit home this week with the loss of my brother in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Even though his death is “not counted” because it was a result of pneumonia and blood clots in the lung as a complication, Covid 19 is responsible none the less. It has been a rough few days gathering the strength to put my feelings about this horrible experience on “paper.” But, I cannot help, but feel people are still not taking this virus seriously.

In addition to being a beach bartender, my brother Matt, was a fitness guru For a 15 year period of time he was a competitive swimmer and a competition bodybuilder. He had been into fitness from the age of 15. I remember him making weights out of milk cartons filled with water, because we could not afford to buy such things growing up. We grew up in ultimate poverty and had to make do with whatever we could. But that is a story for another time. I will say we both managed to dig ourselves out of a life of statistics and become successful adults in our own right. We were very close.

In 2009, my father passed away. A year later, he took my father’s place beside me and walked me down the aisle to say “I do.” Five years later, he married the love of his life Rosemarie, a legal immigrant from Brazil. She was his world. Everything he did was to show her how much he loved her. It was a beautiful site to see. Just last October, I photographed their fifth anniversary portraits on the beach. We went to breakfast in Pompano Beach and did a little shopping. I watched as he doted over her and celebrated having her in his life. They were so in love.

In March, enter Covid 19. Matt was working at the Trump International Hotel in Miami, Florida. You know the time, when all the Spring breakers headed to the beach for booze and sex. It’s important to them and they were entitled to celebrate regardless of this pandemic they considered not serious. After the Spring Break beach incident, Trump International Hotel shutdown with the rest of the businesses in the state of Florida and Matt was placed on quarantine at home. He began having symptoms of coughing and shortness of breath on April 2nd. He had not had a fever, so he did not think anything of it. On April 6th my sister in law rushed him to the hospital, because he could not breathe.

How was she too have known this would be the last time she ever saw him in person again. She would never touch his face, kiss his lips or hold him close to her again. She stood in the parking lot watching as the hospital staff took him in the ER, because she was forbidden to follow her husband into the hospital. He was to bear the scariest and last moments of his life alone, without his wife to hold his hand or have a chance to say goodbye. They would text back and forth for a few hours about what the doctors knew. He told her he loved her and that doctors had diagnosed him with pneumonia and two blood clots on his lungs; we have since learned in the days to follow pneumonia and congestive heart failure are considered uncounted complications of Covid 19. Then, the texts stopped. But, there had been no call from the hospital to tell her anything was wrong, so he must have gone to sleep for the night. What she did not know was, Matt had passed away.

On April 7th, I received a call from the social worker at Broward North in Pompano Beach. When I answered the phone and verified I was his sister the social worker stated, “Your brother expired last night.” My reply was literally, “What like F***ing milk? What are you saying?” If you know me I am sure you can hear me saying this. She went on to say my brother had collapsed and died when he was brought to his room in the intensive care unit. You mean he was on his feet? What?

I asked her why she had not informed his wife. She stated, because Rosemarie was not allowed into the hospital my brother never completed registration and they did not know he was married. She said she found me when she Googled his name and found my business page. No compassion or empathy for what she was saying at all. It would be up to me to make the difficult call to Rosemarie. Honestly though, I would rather that message have come from me than that social worker with no bedside manner.

As expected, she was devastated by the loss of her husband. She had to go to the hospital on multiple occasions to gain answers from the social worker. Who flat out told her she could not see her husband because of he was in the morgue with another deceased Covid 19 patient. I had to make arrangements to have his body moved to a funeral home and she still would not be able to see him until the following day.

It has been an uphill climb emotionally since then. Every time I close my eyes, I see my an image of my brothers body collapsing to the floor. I wake up to nightmares of my sister in law screaming in the image of my daughters face. Every time I touch my husband I am scared to death it’s the last time. I cannot sleep without Z-Quil and I cannot keep anything down when I eat. I am traumatized beyond measure, but I need to hold steadfast for the sake of my sister in law. Whom, I cannot be with because flying to Florida is forbidden and an incredible risk to my own family.

My sister in law sent me all of the text messages between her and my brother the hour before he passed away, including the last photo ever taken of him in a hospital gown, in a mask and on a breathing machine. I cannot tell you how much impact this is for me. I am someone who believes with all my heart that our images are one of our most important possessions we can ever have of each other. My last image of my brother is in pain and dying of this virus.

Today was International Siblings Day. It was so painful to see all these images of siblings spread across my news feed. It was a horrible reminder my big brother had left this world in a painful way at a very young 50 years old.

They say in business to be vulnerable and open. This is not about business for me, more of an outlet for what I am carrying. It’s raw and vulnerable. It’s deserving of remembrance as we walk out the front door to a gathering during this pandemic. I am in the event industry. You and your spouse deserve a lifetime of joy and that may mean postponing to a safer date in the future.

I suppose some of my colleagues could argue I am driving clients away and committing business suicide by saying this. But, the fact is I care about you more than lining my pockets and taking advantage of vulnerable brides during a pandemic. I do not want anyone to experience what I have over the last few days. The grief is real and raw. I want to service brides the right way and right now, that means asking you to postpone. We will begin scheduling elopements and portrait sessions in mid May after the Nationwide lock down is lifted.

  1. Jennifer Underwood says:

    So Loving and thoughtful. An Amazing gift for your family and Yourself!!

    Praying for you and your family! Tonia’s aunt AJ. East Lansing, Michigan.


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