coronavirus pandemic

Widow Who Serenaded Sick Husband With Mariachi Band Carries on Through Pain of Pandemic

She hired a mariachi band to serenade her husband during his last days. Now, she has to carry on without him, and explain his death to their child.

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The pandemic has influenced almost everyone, but COVID-19 took a heavy toll on Patty Trejo's family.

The Orange County woman and her 18-year-old son, Chris, both became ill with the virus. Her other son, Matt, 30 years old and autistic, went to the hospital but was not admitted.

But the virus took the largest toll on Patty's husband, Joe Trejo, who was admitted to St. Jude's Hospital in January.

"Joe was not a selfish man," Patty said. "He made sure we were ok."

Patty wanted to cheer up her husband, unconscious and on a ventilator, around Valentine's Day. So she hired a mariachi band to serenade the music-loving man from outside his room in the hospital.

Two weeks later, the 53-year-old father of three died.

"He even told my boys, take care of your mom and your brother," Patty said.

Unbeknownst to Joe, a close friend of his was in the same hospital, also with COVID. Pete Perez, a high school music director, died soon after Joe was admitted.

"Two great men, same hospital, died of this horrible horrible virus." Patty said. "And now they are not with us. Here in spirit, but not here to see our children grow up."

As Californians go back to something resembling normal life, with fewer and fewer restrictions, Patty worries that headlines about the pandemic are fading too quickly.

"More people are going to die," she said. "We forget about the one-to-two percent still in the hospital."

Forgetting isn't an option for Patty, who had to find a way to explain to her son Matt why his father can't return.

"OK, I thought, how am I going to go about telling him, 'Papa is never coming home?'" Patty said.

Explaining death to a child is difficult, she said, especially when that child's autism presents multiple challenges. So she created a visual booklet, hoping it would help Matt understand why his father is no longer alive.

Surrounded by memories of a 38-year-long marriage, planning her son Chris's 19th birthday alone, and with a soul mate that cannot come back, Patty wants others to remember that a reopening California doesn't mean the deadly virus is gone.

"'You don’t have to wear a mask, its ok, we’re fine.' What about the people in the hospital dying right now?" Patty said. "They forget about that, and they’re still there."

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