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Faces of COVID: Married 65 years, nurses let husband hold wife's hand as she dies with COVID-19

Sylvia Gray died from COVID-19 in December
Posted at 5:26 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 18:46:12-05

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Sylvia Gray was a strong woman who would do anything for the people she loved. Her daughter, Kathi Gray, says her mom had a heart of gold.

“She just loved life and loved family,” said Kathi.

Sher married her high school sweetheart, Earl, and the two enjoyed 65 years together. They lived in Beech Grove for much of their lives, raised four children and enjoyed spending time with their grandchildren.

The two owned and operated a business together for many years. Eventually, Sylvia became her husband’s caretaker, the two doing everything together.

Prior to the pandemic, they would take trips to go and support family members. They traveled to Minneapolis to watch their grandson receive his ceremonial white coat.

Sylvia prioritized family and moments that made her heart full.

Sylvia was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer in April of 2019. She was fortunate to have received good treatments and was doing well. Kathi says her mom was responding well to treatments and the cancer was staying at bay.

The family knew if she caught COVID-19, it would be deadly because of her cancer. Earl and Sylvia stayed home throughout the pandemic. Kathi and her siblings stopping by to bring them groceries and cook dinner so they would not have to leave the house.

When Sylvia started feeling ill in December, the family assumed it was not related to COVID-19. Kathi brought her mom to the hospital on December 17.

“When we got her there her oxygen level was down to 83 and we still had no idea it was COVID-19. None.,” said Kathi.

The next day they brought Earl in, who started feeling ill too. Both Earl and Sylvia tested positive for the virus. Sylvia was admitted and Earl was sent home. He was later admitted to the hospital but placed on a different floor.

On December 29, Kathi received a phone call from the social worker at the hospital that it was time to say goodbye to her mom. Kathi was told she could come inside her mother’s room.

“I was going to be allowed to be in there with mom, and I said there’s one wish I have and that is for my dad to be there,” said Kathi.

Earl was still recovering from the virus on a different floor but hospital staff made it happen. Kathi arrived and put on full PPE gear to be with her mom. A few minutes later a nurse brought her dad into the room.

“Dad got to be there by her side. I can remember both nurses, dad’s nurse and mom’s nurse, looking at each other because dad had gloves on and he was fully gloved and everything just as I was. They both said ‘I don’t care if you don’t care’ and they took his gloves off so they could hold hand to hand,” said Kathi.

That’s when Kathi told her parents why they were allowed to be together that day.

“I looked at my mom and dad and told them that we were there together because this was mom’s last day. She looked up and she said hallelujah I’m going to heaven. Because she knew she was not getting better,” said Kathi.

The two held hands until Sylvia passed away on December 29. She was 84 years old.

Kathi says her father has recovered from the virus and she and her siblings are caring for him now just as they promised her mom they would.