By Sister Janet Korn

They were husband and wife, each keeping their own last names. Friends have described their marriage as one of those rare perfect unions between soulmates. Anne is my niece, a strong and caring woman who works as a program manager for a nonprofit in the Washington, D.C. area. Chad was an IT manager, a wise and fun-loving man who loved life and was up to any challenge. He even appeared on Jeopardy a few years ago! Chad had a large group of friends and was the center of any social circle he was involved in. He was known for being a lively, gracious peacemaker who could bring different groups of people together.

On March 4, 2020, Chad flew out to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, from their home close to D.C. to oversee the installation of a computer system at Saint Agnes Hospital.

By the next day, he had developed a fever and went to an urgent care clinic, where he was told that he probably had the flu. He was given a Tylenol and sent back to his hotel. A few days later, he went to the emergency room, but Chad didn’t qualify for a COVID-19 test because he hadn’t traveled out of the country. On March 10, Chad was back in the hospital with pneumonia and was finally given a test for the coronavirus. The following day. he learned that he had tested positive and was told to quarantine himself in his hotel room.

Anne traveled to Wisconsin to be with Chad. On March 12, he was having trouble breathing and was taken by ambulance from the hotel to the hospital. Anne later learned that she also tested positive for COVID-19, although she was asymptomatic. She quarantined herself for 15 days, isolated in a hotel room. Chad was put on life support in the ICU on March 13. Because Chad was intubated and sedated, he was unable to speak on the phone. Anne sent letters to the nurses, who read them to Chad. Sometimes Anne called Chad on the phone and the nurses would lay the phone on his chest. Did he hear? Did he know how much he was loved and appreciated?

Anne was alone with her pain, so Anne’s sister Mary got into her car and drove 750 miles from Rochester, New York, to Fond du Lac to be with her. Two heads and two hearts are certainly better than one.

Chad died of complications from COVID-19 on March 29, after more than two weeks on a ventilator. Because of the need for social distancing, there was no way to gather for a funeral for this well-loved man with a huge circle of friends and family, no way to provide comfort and consolation in person.

This is the story of one man, one family, one statistic, one country. “The greatest nation on Earth,” and yet there wasn’t sufficient COVID-19 testing available at the outset of the disease. There weren’t appropriate guidelines for dealing with this pandemic. Our country wasn’t ready. How many others died because we didn’t know what was to come? Every day we listen to our phones and TVs and we count, and we pray. How do you count broken hearts? It has taken this country many days and nights to get anything close to what was needed—and what is still urgently needed—and generous people have now rallied to support the staffs in hospitals and in food distribution. Chad died too soon.

Anne wrote a beautiful letter to family and friends on March 29, the day of Chad’s death.

Journal entry by Anne Starkweather — 20 minutes ago

This morning, my beloved husband Chad passed away. I am heartbroken, as is his family and my family. I know all of you, his friends and colleagues, are heartbroken as well. Chad was a truly special person and is irreplaceable.

He fought very hard to get through this, but in the end he couldn’t win the championship game against this horrible virus and the associated pneumonia and ARDS, even with such a wonderful and supportive team behind him. Chad was gracious in loss as well as victory, so I know he would want us to graciously accept this. I am trying to do so and will continue to try. Chad never asked much of me but love, but now, this is the hardest thing he has ever asked of me.

Thank you all from the depths of my heart for your kind words, thoughts, prayers, support, donations, gifts of food to the hospital staff, and most of all, love.

I know we will want to come together as a group to mourn and celebrate Chad. I don’t know how to make this work in this current world of social distancing and self-quarantining. Because Chad was such a social guy with so many friends, this is deeply troubling me. Please share ideas you have for how we could do this. Sometime in the future, when all this current situation is over, we will also have a big celebration of Chad, when we can gather together and hold each other and remember the grace Chad brought to all his interactions with people and laugh about the joy he brought to everything he did.

Today must be a quiet day for me as I deal with logistics and grieve within myself. I look forward to connecting with you all soon.

I love you all and thank you all for being such an amazing part of Chad’s joyful life.