AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As Texas surpasses 40,000 deaths of people with COVID-19, those deaths leave a hole in the heart of someone who loved them.
This Valentine’s Day will be the first one alone for many who lost loved ones.
Laurie Adame is one of those Texans. Her father and husband died from coronavirus complications over the summer. Her dad, Freddy Adame, Sr., passed away at age 73 in the ICU on Aug. 2. Her husband, Homer Rocha, 56, died a week later, on Aug. 8, after he was hospitalized for five weeks.
Valentine’s Day for her family has always been special, with Laurie’s dad giving his daughter a card and heart full of candy each year.
“That was his gift to his, to the women in his life every year,” Laurie, almost 50, said.
Freddy was a “jack of all trades” with an engineering background and a love for fixing things. A father of four from Lubbock, he was married to Connie for nearly 50 years.
“He would do whatever it was in his power to help others,” his “favorite eldest daughter” said. “It didn’t matter how much of an inconvenience it was to him.”
What gives this weekend an extra sting is Feb. 14 would have been Adame’s 16th wedding anniversary with her husband, Rocha, whom she knew for 35 years.
“This was kind of our day, we would take off a Valentine’s (Day) from work and spend the day together, go to the movies and go have breakfast, go have lunch, whatever it was,” Adame said.
“We weren’t big gift-givers,” Adame said. “But he was just a good, good kind-hearted man.
Rocha, a Lubbock native, was heavily involved in the high school football scene at Vista Ridge in Cedar Park. He announced local football games, and the press box at Vista Ridge High was named in his honor after his death. A loyal Dallas Cowboys fan, Rocha spent football seasons glued to the television.
With her children and grandchild to keep her attention over the past six months and through the holiday season, Adame said the month of February has hit her hard, but also inspired her to find ways to honor her dad and husband.
“Valentine’s is supposed to be a day full of love and laughter and just doing fun things, and it has changed for many, many people,” Adame said as her eyes welled up with tears. “So I think this Valentine’s for me will be trying to just keep my husband and my dad’s memory alive.”
Dr. Jin Han, associate professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine, recommends people attempt to connect virtually with friends and family to share feelings, in an effort to avoid mental isolation after a loss.
“Instead of storing it here inside, you’re kind of opening up and processing,” Dr. Han said.
“That is the pathway to help, you know, you don’t need to walk through that period alone,” he added.
Adame and her family sought grief counseling, which has helped, she said. Another tool to process the loss has been reading messages of support from people who knew her father and husband. The tech company where her husband worked extended his benefits so her needs would be covered by insurance, and a friend set up a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral costs while Adame looks for a new job.
“That’s just a huge burden lifted for us,” she said.
This Valentine’s Day, weather permitting, Adame plans to visit the Williamson County cemetery where her husband and father are buried.