'It's heartbreaking': Navajo Nation family loses parents, brother due to coronavirus
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Siblings unable to attend parents' burial due to quaratine
FARMINGTON — Marvin Walters and two siblings entered the month of May still grieving from the loss of their parents and their brother, who all died due to the coronavirus within two weeks of each other in April.
The siblings, who all tested positive to COVID-19, were able to watch parts of their parents' burial service remotely as they remained in quarantine to recover and avoid spreading the virus in the community.
Marvin Walters' parents, Jimmy Walters, 71, and Rachel Walters, 68, as well as his brother, Davis Begaye, 48, died due to complications related to COVID-19. They were Cudei residents.
Begaye was the first one to lose his fight with the coronavirus on April 13. Rachel was next on April 23, and Jimmy, the pastor at Navajo Baptist Temple in Shiprock, died on April 27.
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Begaye worked at the Home Depot location in Farmington. He is one of two employees from the location known to have died from the coronavirus.
Marvin and his siblings are all continuing to recover from COVID-19.
Surina Whitehorse, a cousin, and Marvin spoke to The Daily Times about their experiences, ones that are becoming all too familiar as more than 63,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus as of May 1.
The Navajo Nation had 2,141 positive COVID-19 cases as of April 30, with 71 deaths.
"It's heartbreaking, because to lose a mom and dad, that is the worst feeling ever," Whitehorse said.
Marvin has been the big shoulders for the family, organizing the funerals for his parents and brother. He traveled from Albuquerque, leaving behind his children, to make the arrangements.
Marvin received his positive test results on April 23 and avoided most of the symptoms associated with COVID-19, stating he only lost his sense of taste and smell.
A brother who tested positive didn't show any symptoms and his sister is expected to leave quarantine soon.
Marvin went to visit Begaye at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque after Begaye was flown there from the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock. However, he was unable to visit Begaye's room and stood at the nurse's station on April 13 as his brother's ventilator tube was removed.
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After that, his mother's condition started to deteriorate, and she was admitted to the hospital on April 16, the day before Begaye's funeral on April 17.
"It was more heartbreaking than I expected," Marvin said about Begaye's burial.
He said his relatives just stood in front of each other and cried, describing it as a new level of hurt as they felt helpless.
"From that point on, this virus has taken a lot from us," Marvin said. "As my mom's health declined, my father's did, as well."
Jimmy and Rachel were both admitted to the hospital with low oxygen levels. Marvin last saw his father when he was wheeled into the hospital.
There was a four-day gap between the parents dying from the coronavirus, as Rachel died on April 23 and Jimmy on April 27, according to funeral bulletins.
The funeral home was very accommodating, Marvin said, as it became a double funeral on April 29.
"It just hurts more because we couldn't be there to lay our parents to rest," Marvin said.
Whitehorse described Rachel and Jimmy's immediate family as really outspoken, loving, caring and compassionate. She cited Davis' humor and how he made her smile.
Whitehorse was concerned about Davis' employment at Home Depot and believes he brought the coronavirus into the family home.
Home Depot spokesperson Sara Gorman spoke to The Daily Times about how the company is working to keeping employees and customers safe during the pandemic.
“We’re just heartbroken over the loss of our associates and friends, and our hearts go out to their families," Gorman said.
Corporate officials have been reaching out to Farmington employees to notify them of the deaths of their co-workers.
Gorman went into great detail describing efforts by the company to enforce social distancing in the Farmington store and take health precautions for associates. Those precautions include only allowing 50 customers to shop at a time.
Masks and gloves are provided to all employees, and extensive new policies on paid time off have been enacted.
Both Whitehorse and Marvin hope the community takes the health concerns associated with the coronavirus seriously.
"On my Facebook, I stress (people) should stay home, take care of themselves," Whitehorse said. "Wear gloves and masks."
She urges people to keep their kids home and avoid taking them out into public, asking only one person per family to travel for essential supplies.
Marvin started to educate himself on the coronavirus by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and learning what he can to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. He has been sharing that information with his brother who is recovering from the coronavirus.
"That's our biggest concern, not spreading this virus more and more," Marvin said.
Marvin is also thankful for the community support the family has received, including messages from around the world.
Donations can be made to Marvin's Venmo account @Marvin-Walters, his Zelle account at 505-331-8571 along with a GoFundMe page at https://bit.ly/davisbegaye.
Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at email@example.com.
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