For the Blackwell family, Christmas was not a free-spirited or joyful celebration. Having just lost their parents, the kids had to rely on each other for strength.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the lives of millions of people and a happily married couple recently lost their lives to the deadly virus. Paul Blackwell, 62, and Rose Mary Blackwell, 65, had been married for 30 years and were parents to four children. Both were teachers in the Grand Prairie Independent School District in Grand Prairie, Texas. While Rose Mary was a second-grade teacher and had just reached her 20th year at Travis World Language Academy, Paul was a PE teacher and football coach at Fannin Middle school, as per CNN. They were so dedicated to their students that they continued to work until they fell sick.
The couple contracted the virus just a week before Thanksgiving. “It really took a toll on them pretty quickly,” son Shawn Blackwell told NBC News about his parents showing symptoms. He mentioned that his mother was suffering shortness of breath at night and wasn’t sleeping and his father laid on the couch for four days.
Their worsening health forced them to miss Thanksgiving with their children for the first time. “There’s not been one Thanksgiving we’ve never spent together,” son Brandon Blackwell said, according to NBC News. After the holiday, the couple was admitted to the hospital, where they’d spend the next few weeks fighting the biggest battle... the one for their lives. And it was a bleak outlook for them.
Shawn said, according to CNN, "Doctors said they hadn't seen any progression at all, and they were slowly declining in their overall vital functions. It got to the point where it was very far gone and that there was nothing else they could do."
For a while, the brothers were unable to be with their parents and had to resort to only video calls. “Their spirits were not too high during their hospital stay," Brandon said. "But just us being there, I know, gave them some type of comfort. I was just glad they were able to see our faces.”
However, after they were transferred to the ICU, they all knew it was the end. “My little brother Shawn got to speak with my mom right before she got intubated and I was able to speak with my dad right before he got intubated, so it was crazy how that worked out,” Brandon said. But not for long. “My dad wasn’t going to make it too much longer and my mom was right behind him,” Shawn said.
After several days of intensive care and multiple ventilators, he and his brothers were forced to make the hard decision to let their parents off life support and at least have the comfort of going together. "Me and my brother came to the conclusion to let them go at peace together. They were together and holding hands. My brother and I were both holding my parent's hands as well, so all four of us were holding each other's hands as they were both removed from the ventilator," he added. However, the other sons weren't able to be with their parents when they passed away.
“Two of my other brothers are actually in the room there at the hospital and they wheeled my stepmother in there in the room with my father and at the same time, removed them both from the ventilator. They had them holding hands and they were both gone in a couple of minutes,” said Christopher Blackwell, Paul's son, according to CBS 11. “I’ve never seen anything like that before and it’s hard to even put into words seeing that.”
Though it was unclear how they contracted the virus, their deaths were a blow to the people who knew and loved them. The Grand Prairie Independent School District expressed their condolences and sadness to the family and the school community in a post on Facebook. "Rose Mary and Paul will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their family, friends, coworkers, and students both current and former," the school district wrote.
A GoFundMe page was organized to help raise relief funds for the Blackwells as they made arrangements for their loss. "I just want people to know I am proud of the people my mom and dad were and proud of the things they accomplished," said Shawn. "They were the definition of the greatest parents and grandparents ever."
“It did give us some sense of closure that they both went together because, honestly, it would’ve been weird to have one without the other,” he added.