The Toll That a Death From COVID-19 Takes on a Student

How the loss of a loved one continues to impact a high school student.


Gracie Chavez

As of December 11, over 1.6 million people around the world have passed away due to COVID-19 (CNN). One of those 1.6 million was my grandpa. Losing a loved one is never easy and it leaves a void that can never be replaced. It’s hard to go about when there’s something so big missing from your life, and it’s hard to keep the same joy you carried before.

When I first found out my grandpa was admitted to the hospital with COVID-19, my jaw dropped. I knew how this virus was affecting elders and what the usual outcome was, but I avoided thinking about it. I continued to have hope and pray that in some way he could pull through. All our family could do was have hope and faith. We tried to figure out where he had gotten COVID from, where he’s been, and who he’s been around. We lit over 15 prayer candles throughout the time he was in the hospital. We continued to worry and prepare ourselves for any outcome. 

Gracie Chavez talking to her Grandpa on Zoom.

 After a couple weeks of good days and bad days, we got the chance to set up a zoom call to say our possible goodbyes. That afternoon my grandma, mom, sister, and I got to talk to him. We assured him that he would be home soon and we would be able to hug each other sooner than later. After that zoom call, he started to do a lot better. He wasn’t requiring as much oxygen, was eating more, and he was just overall well. We decided to do one last zoom call with the whole family, however, none of us expected that to be the last conversation we would’ve had with our grandpa. During the two zoom calls we did get to have, I decided to voice record them. I can say that doing that was one of the best things I could have done. Now I can go back to those recordings and hear the sound of my grandpa’s voice talking about how he missed and loved us.

Six days later we were at my sister’s football game when my mom got a call that my grandpa was coding. When I first found out I wasn’t sure as to what “coding” meant, but I knew it wasn’t good considering my mom fell to her knees in tears and feared that she was going to lose her father. Although it was my sister’s championship game, my mom, brother, and I left in a hurry to be with my grandma. I tried to keep positive even though I knew what was eventually going to happen. It was difficult for me to think about my grandpa passing away because he’s been by my side for my whole life. Without him by my side didn’t seem right.

After an evening of worry and a sleepless night, my grandpa passed away on November 1st at 9:40 in the morning. My grandpa fought for his life for 25 days in a hospital with hundreds of other COVID-19 patients. 

When I first found out about my grandpa’s passing, I didn’t know what to think. He was my best friend, someone I looked up to, and the man who could make everything better with his laugh and generosity. I didn’t know how to react. It’s the biggest loss I’ve ever experienced. I fell to the ground when my parents confirmed it because I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t put it together that the guy I hugged 39 days ago was gone forever. 

Reality hit me. This virus is leaving serious underlying conditions, killing people, and affecting everyone in a negative way. Humans cannot continue to avoid COVID and expect it to just go away. 

Before my grandpa started getting really sick, I wasn’t the most responsible person when it came to taking the precautions I needed to. I would attend youth group activities and church without masks and without social distancing. I would hang out with my friends who were around their other friends and family. I also was one of the people who really just saw the virus as a hoax. I didn’t think it was going to last longer than 3 months at the most. Overall, I really just didn’t care to put my time or thought about what I should do to keep the people I surround myself with safe and healthy.  

Gracie Chavez’s Grandpa in the hospital.

After losing someone so close to my heart, I came to realize how real and serious this virus is and how little people were truly doing to potentially save their own loved ones’ lives. I started to become a lot more aware of how I was exposing myself and exposing my family and friends. I would rarely leave the house, and when I did I wouldn’t leave without my mask or without social distancing. I came to realize that nobody will really understand the seriousness until they see someone they care about fight for their life, or even pass away from the virus, as that was the case for me. As soon as I watched my grandpa start to fight to breathe, I knew how real everything was.

It was really upsetting seeing how the community went about their daily activities as if there wasn’t a global pandemic spreading and killing people. It was frustrating to watch my peers continue to go out and have get-togethers. It was hard to comprehend why all the people who gave me condolences and said how sorry they were, were the same ones who continued to do nothing to prevent this happening to another one of their peers. 

I have to continue to live and celebrate holidays, have big life moments, and do traditions without my grandpa. My family and I lost someone sooner than any of us imagined from COVID-19. We watched a man we all looked up to fight for his life with no one at his bedside. We said goodbyes through the screen. We had a service for him that wasn’t at all normal and now we watch the people around us refuse to wear masks while not following social distancing. Countries around us are seeing more normalcy because they chose to do what they needed, they didn’t start protests, and they took the precautions that they needed to. However, states in the US are starting to be put on lockdown once again. It takes a few weeks of staying home and only going out for necessities, and while out, wearing masks while containing six feet between another human. People of this society seem to become more careless each and every day when it comes to the virus and how it affects them. 

Every day I see my peers continue to party and participate in large crowds. I wouldn’t say that all the partying, social interaction, and gatherings are worth the void and the brokenness that losing a loved one brings you.