Girl, 3, Tries Comforting Her Mom After Father, 36, Dies of Coronavirus: 'Dad Is in Heaven Now'
"People don't realize what's important until you lose what's important," Jenn Bradin says of her husband Yoni's passing
A Long Island family is leaning on each other as they cope with what has become their "new reality" after their beloved husband and father died at 36 from coronavirus (COVID-19).
Jenn Bradin tells PEOPLE she's having trouble wrapping her mind around the fact that her "devoted" husband, Yoni's life was cut short on April 20 due to the virus.
"It's surreal to think he's not here anymore. It's such a devastating loss," she says. "You're talking about someone who had a full life still ahead of him and it was taken away in a snap of a finger by something that nobody could've ever seen coming."
Part of the life that was stolen from him by coronavirus was watching his children, 3-year-old daughter Bella and 1-year-old son Noah, grow up. Despite being so young, Jenn notes that Bella has been a source of comfort for her as they continue to grieve.
"There are nights where I lay with her and cry — because, to me, she needs to see my emotions too and know that I'm sad about it — and she'll say, 'Why are you crying?' and I'll say, 'I miss Aba [dad in Hebrew]. I'm thinking about him,'" Jenn, 36, recalls. "And she'll cup my face with her hands, and she'll say 'It's okay, Mommy, Aba's in heaven, and in our hearts and our heads.'"
As remarkable as that is, Jenn acknowledges that her 3-year-old doesn't quite "understand the permanency" in her father's loss.
"She understands it from a black and white perspective. If I ask her to tell me what happened to him, she will tell me that he got this sickness — that's what she calls it — and it killed him and he died, and now he's in heaven," Jenn explains. "But then the next day, she'll say to me, 'I hate the sickness. I wish it would go away because then maybe Aba would get better and come back.'"
"There are so many different ranges of emotions that she has," she continues. "It's crazy to think that my 3-and-a-half-year-old is comforting me sometimes."
"The sickness" that ultimately killed Yoni began with a bout of pneumonia in February, Jenn explains. After weeks of coughing and not getting any better, the father of two — who was otherwise healthy — went to Stony Brook Hospital, where he tested positive for COVID-19 on March 13.
He remained hospitalized for a few days, before appearing to be getting better and returning to their Hauppauge home on March 15. But just six days later, Jenn found herself driving Yoni back to the hospital, where she is employed as a psychiatric social worker, after his condition worsened.
"He didn't like going to the doctor when he was sick, he never was that kind of person," Jenn recalls. "For him to wake up one day and say to me, 'I need to go to the hospital right now,' he really meant it because he would never do that."
Due to visitor restrictions at the hospital, and the fact that she had also contracted a mild case of the virus and was under mandatory quarantine, Jenn was not immediately allowed to go in with her husband.
Instead, the couple communicated via phone — some exchanges which Jenn says she still has difficulty looking back on.
"I remember when I dropped him off at the emergency room, we were so nervous that I didn’t kiss him goodbye," she says through tears. "Right before they intubated him, I was able to talk to him and it was the last time I spoke to him. He called me and told me that he loved me and to hug and kiss the kids, which was really hard to hear."
Once she was healthy, Jenn was able to be by his side in the Intensive Care Unit, thanks to a hospital policy that allowed clinical workers to visit family and friends who were COVID-19 patients. She remained with him until Yoni tragically died last week.
In the wake of his death, a GoFundMe campaign was started for the Hauppauge father, with a goal of providing financial support to the family for funeral costs, medical bills, and educational aspirations. It has since raised over $190,000.
Though Jenn feels grateful to have shared those final moments with her husband, especially since many families have not had that same opportunity, she says watching an intubated Yoni fight for his life in the ICU was "really hard."
Also extremely heartbreaking for her was witnessing Yoni's 90-year-old grandfather, who is a Holocaust survivor, at his small funeral service on April 22.
"His grandfather lost his entire immediate family in Auschwitz when he was a young boy," she explains. "One of the most devastating things about that day, for me, was him sitting there having to watch his grandson, who he was so close to, be buried."
"After going through so much unimaginable tragedy in his life to now have to see this," she continues. "He was so proud of Yoni and they spoke all the time, so that’s been one of the hardest things."
As the family continues to cope with the loss, Jenn is taking comfort in remembering all the things she loved most about Yoni.
"He was so genuine. He had the ability to walk into any room and light it up and could connect with anyone, no matter what their background was," she says. "He loved me so much. There was a connection there that I never had with anyone else before. The kind of love that we had, it was almost like we were put on this Earth for each other."
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She also wants others to understand the severity of the virus, especially as multiple states prepare to reopen in the coming days and weeks.
"It makes me nervous because this is very real and I don't think we're at a point where it's over yet," Jenn says. "I know there is a reality of certain things, like the economy, having to get moving again, but at what cost are we talking here?"
"I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone else in the world and it's happening every day all over the country," she continues. "Until we find a way to eradicate this virus, we need to continue social distancing and keep as many things shut down as we can."
"People don’t realize what's important until you lose what's important. Even we were guilty of that," she adds. "You take a lot of things for granted and then all of a sudden something like this happens. You're totally blindsided. I just wish we could go back somehow and change it."
As of Thursday, there have been over 1 million cases and at least 62,708 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the New York Times. In New York, at least 309,696 cases and 23,616 deaths have been reported, according to the Times.
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