Unfathomable goodbyes

Marjorie and Nathaniel Franklin of Albany, shown here in a recent photo, caught the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. Marjorie died on March 25, 2020, at the age of 66. Nathaniel was hospitalized the next day and died April 18, at the age of 65.  (Courtesy of Teri Franklin)
Caption
Marjorie and Nathaniel Franklin of Albany, shown here in a recent photo, caught the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. Marjorie died on March 25, 2020, at the age of 66. Nathaniel was hospitalized the next day and died April 18, at the age of 65. (Courtesy of Teri Franklin)

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Dozens of Georgia couples were lost to COVID-19, including Albany residents married 46 years.

Nathaniel Franklin was sitting in the living room alone. Marjorie, his wife of 46 years, was in the hospital, weak and short of breath. They had both caught the coronavirus. In 46 years, it was only the second time they’d spent days apart.

Nathaniel and Marjorie’s daughter and granddaughter were in the next room of his home in Albany, preparing for a Skype video call to Marjorie’s hospital room in Macon. Nathaniel had taken her to the hospital in Albany, Phoebe Putney. But Phoebe was full, the center of one of the globe’s worst coronavirus outbreaks less than two weeks after the hospital realized it had its first case. So Marjorie was transported to Macon.

Earlier that day, Marjorie’s doctor had asked Nathaniel his wishes if Marjorie were to stop breathing. He summoned all his gravity and said, “I want you to do everything you can for her.”

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The doctor said OK. But that meant she would need to be intubated, put on a ventilator to help her breathe.

Now, the intubation procedure was done. Marjorie was sedated and unconscious. When the video call went through, a nurse would connect the family on the screen at Marjorie’s bedside, so they could see and talk to her.

Nathaniel said he didn’t want to see Marjorie like that. He was sitting out the call.

Caption
Teri Franklin, daughter of Marjorie and Nathaniel Franklin, says she was devastated when she saw her mother's condition over a video call, and that she was further devastated to realize that this would be a "goodbye" call. (Courtesy of Teri Franklin)

Credit: Photo courtesy of Teri Franklin

Teri Franklin, daughter of Marjorie and Nathaniel Franklin, says she was devastated when she saw her mother's condition over a video call, and that she was further devastated to realize that this would be a "goodbye" call. (Courtesy of Teri Franklin)
Caption
Teri Franklin, daughter of Marjorie and Nathaniel Franklin, says she was devastated when she saw her mother's condition over a video call, and that she was further devastated to realize that this would be a "goodbye" call. (Courtesy of Teri Franklin)

Credit: Photo courtesy of Teri Franklin

Credit: Photo courtesy of Teri Franklin

Nathaniel’s daughter, Teri, and Teri’s daughter made the call. A nurse began by carefully preparing them: They had never seen Teri’s mom like this, the nurse said, hooked up to a machine with a mask and tubes.

When the nurse turned the computer toward her mom, Teri saw that the nurse was right. Seeing her mom like that was devastating.

The nurse prepared to leave them alone to talk. “She said, ‘Well, I’m going to set the laptop here,’” Teri recalls. “She said, ‘I’m gonna let you all say your goodbyes.’”

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Caption
Marjorie and Nathaniel Franklin of Albany were married for 46 years and died weeks apart from COVID-19. Marjorie died on March 25, 2020, at the age of 66. Nathaniel was hospitalized the next day and died April 18, at the age of 65. (Courtesy of Teri Franklin)

Credit: Contributed

Marjorie and Nathaniel Franklin of Albany were married for 46 years and died weeks apart from COVID-19.  Marjorie died on March 25, 2020, at the age of 66. Nathaniel was hospitalized the next day and died April 18, at the age of 65.  (Courtesy of Teri Franklin)
Caption
Marjorie and Nathaniel Franklin of Albany were married for 46 years and died weeks apart from COVID-19. Marjorie died on March 25, 2020, at the age of 66. Nathaniel was hospitalized the next day and died April 18, at the age of 65. (Courtesy of Teri Franklin)

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The word hit Teri like a bolt. No one had warned them this was goodbye.

“When she said, ‘Say goodbyes’ that just broke me,” Teri said. “I will never say goodbye. Because no one wants to hear those words uttered about your parents.”

Instead, Teri and her daughter told Marjorie how they were doing. They told her they wanted her to come home. Daddy was in the living room, they said, and they loved her. “I’m never going to say goodbye to you,” Teri told her.

Teri never told her dad how the conversation went.

On the doctor’s daily update call a couple of days later, March 25, the doctor told them Marjorie had stopped breathing, even with the ventilator. Staff did everything they could but could not save her. She was 66.

The next day, Nathaniel’s own symptoms worsened to the point that Teri took him to the hospital. With no room in Albany, he was sent to a hospital in Valdosta, where he died on April 18. He was 65.

They were among dozens of Georgia couples lost to the coronavirus so far.

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