COVID-19 took my dad

I woke up Friday morning with the knowledge that my dad was going to die that day.

He’d been unconscious and on a ventilator for two weeks, and was showing no signs of improvement. His heart was weakening, and he was developing blood clots. Nothing good was going to come out of any of this, and it was decided that later that afternoon we’d be disconnecting him from the ventilator and releasing him from his suffering.

My mom, in full PPE, was permitted to be with him. She’s COVID-positive. I’m not, and therefore they could not allow me into the hospital. I fully understand that, and I doubt he would have wanted me there anyway, because of his protective nature. So I watched my dad die from the comfort of my own bed, on FaceTime, on my phone.

They put his phone up to his ear and let me speak. My mom, his wife of 46 years, stroked his hair with a gloved hand and told him it was okay to go.

It was all over in minutes. After disconnecting him, he went into respiratory failure and peacefully died.

This was a man who, as a firefighter, saved many a child from many a burning building. Lives were lived because of his intervention. He’s well-known in the firefighting community for his service as the former Chief of the Fort Sill Fire Dept, as well as his time as a state Fire Marshall and his involvement with the Oklahoma Firefighters Association. His integrity was unwavering, and he fought against the good ol’ boy system at every turn, even when it made him extremely unpopular with certain “important” people who didn’t take too kindly to his not simply giving them a pass on fire code violations. He did not care what anyone thought about it, either. They expected him to play the game, but he stood for what was right, and stood his ground. He showed me, by example, how to be a man of integrity and to never back down on my convictions. Throughout his life, he stood up for the underdogs and stood nose-to-nose with corruption and never blinked.

That guy dying in the pic above? That’s a hero. Not only is he a combat veteran, and a lifelong fireman, he was also heavily involved in children’s charity work. He was extremely active in various church activities that helped a lot of people. He never stopped. He was active until the day he got sick.

The last time I saw him was at the beginning of March, on his birthday. I gave him a children’s birthday card and wrote something inside of it about how he’d had so many birthdays I’d burned through all of the adult cards. We laughed. We hugged. I went to work.

This has all happened so suddenly that I’m not sure what to think or how to process it. I can’t even hug my mom. She had to drive herself home and go back into her house and be alone. All I can do is visit her from the back porch, our phones both on speaker.

I’m angry. At what, though? I don’t know, specifically. I’m angry at people who aren’t taking this seriously, for one, even though he contracted it before anyone knew it was going to be a big deal. The world was a different place three weeks ago.

After I watched him die, I cried, I shouted and cursed and pounded my fist on my dresser. And then I started laughing like a lunatic. Losing a parent is really weird, guys, especially when everything is so depersonalized now, by necessity.

Anticlimactic is the word that first comes to mind. I got a call from his phone after waiting all day long for 3:00, as if waiting on a hanging, and there he was. He died, and my mom drove home and my wife and I ate dinner and watched the Joe Exotic thing on Netflix, and I laughed.

He had a huge celebration planned for his funeral, and now he’ll just go into the ground with none of his beloved church family at the Edmond Church of Christ, no honor guards, no flag ceremony and USAF buglers, no anything of his meticulously-detailed previously written instructions for conducting his funeral.

We’ll have a memorial later on, but for right now, if you have a family member who dies of this, they die and you go home. And that’s it. I can’t even hug my mom. She’s a tough woman, but I know this is testing even her limits. I just want her to get well. I don’t want to lose them both at once. Please, be careful out there, people. You don’t want this.



  1. I had to stop halfway to quit crying so I could finish reading this. My heart is with you.

  2. Prayers. If you ever need an ear to gnaw off, feel free to text, that also goes for your wife as well.

  3. I am so very sorry. I felt like the world stopped for awhile when I lost my dad. He died so quickly I didn’t get to day goodbye to him either. But my heart is breaking for you that all of this requires everyone to be so isolated. You & your wife and your Mom are in my prayers.

  4. Well said. Rich has been a blessing to countless people. Sorry was not according to plans. The plan of God is of greater honor and praise we can give.

  5. So very sorry for your loss. Uncle has always been a part of our lives as “friends of Ce/Amy”. We have always loved he & Linda. Praying for you & your family ❤️

  6. Your dad was an amazing man who I was honored to call brother. Praying for all of you, and for healing for your mom.

  7. Patrick, I want you to know my heart goes out to you and your family. I mourn your father’s passing even though I never knew him. He sounds like a great guy.

    I’ve got my fingers crossed twice for your mom’s good health.

  8. Prayers for you and your family. Peace and comfort. Thank you for your dads service to the US, Oklahoma and the community

  9. My husband and I knew Your dad from firefighter conventions and his enormous amount of work for the fire departments and the memorial. He will truly be missed. He was a wonderful, Christ centered guy with a love for his lord, family and fire departments. Many prayers for your family and your mom. I have no doubt that when he hit the gates of heaven he yelled “clear the Halls” and Jesus said well done my good and faithful servant. You’re finally home.

  10. I don’t know you, but I knew your Dad. He was Santa for my kids and I worked with him on our church drama and I saw him when he subbed. He poked his head into my classroom around lunchtime the last time he subbed and we chatted. I’m praying for you and your Mom. Nothing can make this better. I’m so sorry.

  11. Patrick, thank you for sharing this. You honor your dad in a beautiful tribute to his life. But your parents put something into your heart and life that is special. A love and respect for them both. Praying for your mom and family during these days.

  12. My deepest Condolences to your entire family. May you father rest peacefully and have eternal life as he has begun his next journey.

  13. We just left Edmond today after moving our daughter out of her dorm at OC. To read this tonight breaks my heart. We’ve been to Edmond COC before and possibly cross d paths with your family. This story is so heart touching and almost unreal. My heart and prayers are with you and your family. Lynn Pendergrass

  14. I don’t know you but I feel your pain. I’m so very sad for you and your mom. I can’t imagine going through this, your heart and worries are being held right now in the comfort of friends and those who never knew you.Godspeed and a hundred prayers.

  15. So very sorry for your loss.
    Thank you for sharing your hero Dad.
    Prayers for healing through grief.

  16. I’m so sorry for your loss. He was very kind to me and I consider your mom one of mentors. She like many others in my group show me how to live a life with integrity, when I met her she was amazing and she had me volunteering at the handmade clothes giveaway.🙂 Your loss has to be excruciating 😢 because it’s such a tragedy to know that your awesome mom who loves on so many people has be alone right now. I pray for your peace and comfort. It seems like so little to say. Thank you for sharing this.

  17. Sorry for the loss of your Dad but glad you were able to be together by facetime on your phone with your Mothe too. I pray for continued healing for your Mother and for Peace that passeth all understanding because you KNOW your Dad is in Heaven with your Heavenly Father and you will see him again someday!

  18. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can totally relate as we had our uncle pass Friday night alone in the hospital and his wife is at home with our elderly grandma. She couldn’t be there with her husband nor his sons to hold his hand as he passed. He was just ripped from thier lives. This virus is not only life threatening but it’s taking away humanity, humility, dignity and last moments with loved ones. At this time we are also going thru mother in law being in the hospital in critical condition with this as well. It’s taking out people of all ages, race, etc. And diminishing family generations. People please please take this more serious…your life and the lives of others is seriously at stake every moment.

  19. To my knowledge I never met your dad, but I know many who were loved by him, and I’ve been blessed by the Edmond COC. I’m heartbroken reading what you’ve written, and thank you for sharing. You and your family are in my prayers.

  20. I’ve known your dad for 20 years He was always so professional and involved. He was well respected in the OSFA and fire service. I’ll be praying for your family. Praying also for your mom to stay symptom free.

  21. This was so hard to read, and I know that it was harder to live what you and your family have been through. I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing.

  22. I’m sure I just woke my husband because even though I don’t know your family, I’m crying. This is so unfair. I hope your mom recovers and you’re able to hug her soon. She needs it.

  23. I am so very sorry for your loss. I’m praying for healing for your mother. Thank you, for so eloquently telling the world about the reality of this horrifying time. Other Oklahomans need to hear this.

  24. I’m so sorry for your loss. I know your pain since I found out yesterday my dad had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in the previous few days, not from Covid19, but from more than likely a massive heart attack or stroke.
    I’m numb and shocked and cannot grieve in the usual way due to the pandemic. I can’t get visits or hugs from friends. I cannot imagine not being able to hug your mom. I have lived in (and now near the Lawton/Ft. Sill community my whole life… Sending prayers to you and your mom and sending healing prayers for her as well.

  25. Prayers for your mother and your family. So grateful to your father for his service to our country, his time served as a firefighter, and his children’s charity work! I’m a stranger, but I am honored to have read about such a great man. Thank you for sharing. God bless.

  26. Your parents are true gems. The world is a much better place because they brought joy and smiles to so many. My husband and I are praying for peace, comfort and healing. Thank you for your well- written thoughts.

  27. You did right by your Dad, and your Mom, today in sharing their story for all of us. It will help.

    The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

  28. Your story is heart breaking and I am so very sorry for you and your family. Your Dad sounds like a truly wonderful man. I hope that you can be with your Mom very soon.

  29. I’m so sorry. Yeah, I get it, I’m numb, too. I don’t have much in the way of emotion right now at all. We feel like our dad’s deaths are overshadowed by current events.

  30. I am so very sorry for your loss, your Dad sounds amazing I pray your are comforted in your sorrow and for your mom 🙏 for healing

  31. That’s my intention, to make this seem real to people. Shoving death in their faces is the only way to penetrate people’s thick skulls. If his death helps even one person to start behaving sensibly and survive, he will be happy.

  32. I knew your dad through our work with OSFA. He was everything you said and more. I loved him so much. I am praying for your family. I am comforted to know he is in heaven and know how much he was loved here on earth. Thank you for sharing this. ❤️🙏🏼

  33. Thank you for sharing. I know it’s redundant to say that your Dad was a wonderful man but I will say it anyway! I knew your Dad through OSFA. I know many things won’t be the same without him here but I don’t see how there will be a dry eye in the halls without Richard Walts there to “clear the halls”. My family will continue to pray for your family.

  34. I’m so truly sorry for your loss. Your dad sounds like an amazing man. I really hope your mom gets better soon and I will keep you guys in my prayers.

  35. Rich was a great man. Not only was he a Christian brother but he was a firefighting brother. We had great times together and inwill miss him terribly. Prayers for your family.

  36. Patrick, my wife and I met you along time ago at your folks place for dinner. My wife Carol died on March 5th from Leukemia and the last time I Saw your dad & mom was at Carol’s funeral at the Edmond Church of Christ. Shortly after that your dad went into the hospital. Your DAD was a great man, Husband and father and Friend. Your mom needs all the love and support we can muster. I appreciate your post here as a real tribute to him. Thank you for sharing your gut wrenching truth of this whole situation. My daughter and I have been home bound since our funeral. May God give strength and recover Linda’s health.

  37. As I read this, my heart was broken for you. I can not imagine. However, may I say your dads greatest plans for his funeral could never compare to the grand entry as he walked from this world into heaven. The funeral is simply for those of us left behind. May that day bring you all the closure you seek.

  38. We’re praying for you and your family ♥️ Can’t even imagine what you and your family are going thru. In Christian love. Jim and Sue Hawkins ♥️

  39. Patrick, Your father and I were in the same graduating class. I remember him as a kind and friendly person. I offer my sincerest sympathies to you. I am proud to have known him !

  40. Patrick, I am so sorry for your loss. I am a member of the Choctaw Church of Christ and have been following your dad’s progress through some mutual friends. I will continue to keep your family in my prayers.

  41. Patrick and family,
    My deepest sympathy to you and your family. I knew Richard for many years growing up in Shelbyville. My mother knew your grandmother ,and your great grandmother, Muriel, lived in our duplex house many years. Richard and I were also 1965 classmates. Richard was loved and admired by everyone who knew him. He was a hero in so many aspects of his life. I saw him last at our 50 year class reunion.He reminded the very same wonderful person I remembered from many years gone by.Thank you for sharing about Richard and his many accomplishments.🙏

  42. My husband and I knew your Dad through church. He was quick with a smile EVERY time I saw him and it was infectious. He was original in the best of ways and he will be missed.

  43. Patrick… Just wanted to let you know how much we all loved Rich at The Kids Place, our griefshare group. My son, Zach, would always say when Rich called… “Heeeeeere’s Richie!” 😃 He was such a sweet, big-hearted man, & has blessed our lives for many years. He was always there for us with a smile. And could always count on him for an ornery man-hug & scruff on the ‘ noggin for my boy. He was loved by all of us at The Kids Place. We will miss him dearly. Please know that you are in our prayers, as well as your mother’s continued healing.

  44. Patrick,
    I don’t think we have ever met, but I’ve known your mom and dad 10+ years. Servinbf with them at church. Rich was such a wonderful man. Such a great laugh. He was so caring for others that he often put them before himself. He will be greatly missed by 1000s of people. Our family wept when we heard the news.
    I can’t imaging what you and your family are going through, but know that many are praying for you and hurting with you. Most of all know that God is holding you in his arms. He has taken your dad to a better place where ther is no more sorrow or pain. I hope you can find some comfort in that.
    This is a real thing and it will change this world forever. I hope it teaches all of us to be more careful and to focus on the time we have with love ones instead of focusing on our electronic devices. Time is too short.
    Praying for your family.
    God bless

  45. I’m so sorry Patrick. Your dad was such a good man.

    Praying and thinking about you and your mom and all of the family.

  46. Sharing this writing in order to honor a hero who left quietly but lived loudly, vibrantly, and with great loving kindness. Deep condolences to your family.

  47. My deepest sympathy being expressed as I read your story. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and expression of the memories you have left to hang onto about your Dad. Richard has long been respected by me. We lived on the same street as kindergarteners and went through twelve years of school together in Shelbyville, IN. God Bless you and the family and the many, many friends that are feeling your pain as well. Prayers being lifted. In Christian Love Rody (Frazee) Stegall, Georgetown, SC.

  48. I’m so saddened by the loss of your dad. He was such a bright spot in my day each week. He and your mom overflowed with joy together and I know he will be missed terribly by you both. Your dad meant so much to the kids at church and adults too. We are praying for healing for your mom and comfort for you both. L

  49. I’m so sorry. Your father sounds like an amazing man. Someone that I would want to know. Bless you, your mother and all of your family. May God lift you up during this time and help carry on. 🙏🙏🙏

  50. I’m deeply saddened by the loss of your father and the experience your mom, you and your family have encountered. My thoughts and prayers are with you all!

  51. I love your parents. They were so kind to us when I worked at the Edmond Church of Christ. They even came to visit us after we moved to Houston. He loved people, God, the church, you, and your mom. I know because those are the things he always talked about. I miss him but I know it’s not forever.

  52. Patrick, So sorry to hear about your Dad!
    I have so many great memories of your
    Mom and Dad, in Lawton many years ago! May God bless you and your Mom at this time! Praying for your Mom to recover soon so you can give her a hug!
    I have always loved your family!
    In Christian Love, Paula Reed Avrit

  53. My heart goes out to you. My father passed 16 years ago today. I was very privileged to be with him. I’m so sorry you weren’t able to. Such a tragedy. My prayers going up for you all. Stay well!

  54. This is so beautifully written, I am so sorry for your loss and more so for the fact that you aren’t able to mourn in the way that you would expect. I hope that the memorial service is beautiful for him and allows you a way to say goodbye the way that we’ve all come to expect that we should……and, I hope that you are able to hug your mother soon. You both deserve that. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Kara, your mother and the rest of your family.

  55. I’m so upset… I’m upset that your dad passed away and you couldn’t be there. I’m upset you can’t be with your mom. This fucking sucks. (And also, I’m upset that your last few posts have not showed up in my reader and I am just now seeing this.)

    My heart, Patrick. For you, your wife, your mom… all the people who have had to say goodbye.

    If I could, I would give you a hug.

  56. Thank you. I’m not going to let him die quietly, though. I’ll be on three different news stations tonight to speak about it, I’ll make a post with the links later

  57. Hello Patrick. I’m sorry this happened. I’m an active duty Fire Captain and Piper with Oklahoma Fire Pipes and Drums. I’m volunteering my services to your family in your time of need. Our band of brothers is here for our fire service fallen.

  58. Hi, I think my mom is having someone contact you guys, I know she said she was getting “the pipers,” so she may already be in touch with one of you guys

  59. My heart, prayers and lots of positive energy to you and your family. I wish yall better days, and especially for your mom. Stay Strong…Stay Safe💙May Your Dad rest peacefully…

  60. Your dad will be missed by so many. I attend the Edmond church and your dad was always there to greet us with a smile. Continued prayers for your mom’s recovery and for both of you as you move forward without your dad.

  61. I am so sorry for your loss. My Mom died a week ago yesterday. It wasn’t Covid19 but it still went down in a very similar way. My Mom was 91 and had a wonderful life. She was a nurse. Some of the things you wrote helped me as I too am in flux as far as grieving. It’s so complicated… kind of like I am on hold. I pray for you and your family. Blessings

  62. I send you and your family our sincere sympathy, and I am sad for the loss of you Dad. I worked with you Dad on many projects over a period of years. He was a great man and losing him during the crazy times makes it even worst. Our thoughts and prayers will be with all the family.

  63. I knew father since the late 90’s when I was just starting out in the Oklahoma fire service. He was a good man that approached every day with fortitude and integrity. His knowledge of fire safety would fill volumes and he taught me and many others a lot. He will be missed by many. My thoughts go out to you and your family in these difficult times.

  64. Hey cousin Patrick,
    What a great tribute to your dad. I treasure the memories of your parents coming to PA many yrs ago and staying with us as I homeschooled. We did field trips together and Rich did a fire safety class for a group of kids.
    I am so sorry for you and Linda. I continue to pray for Linda’s health and your loss.
    May Gods comfort become real in all of this.
    Marie Miller

  65. Richard was a great man and will be truly missed. He always had a smile on his face during our Society of Fire Protection Engineer meetings and always took the time to ask how things were going. My thoughts are with you and your family during these trying times. Thank you for sharing and stay strong!.

  66. Our prayers are with you and your family at this very difficult time. We are specifically praying for healing for your mother,Linda. Thank you for sharing and urging everyone to take this seriously. If we all do our part, we will soon be back together where we belong and able to love on one another. Prayers, Dennis and Judy

  67. So very well written, and so touching. I understand your pain. I lost my Mom in November, and I can’t imagine going through this pain under these incredibly challenging circumstances. Sending my sympathy to you and your family.

  68. Musings from the Society of Fire Protection Engineers Oklahoma Chapter…

    Richard has been involved with our chapter since its inception. His contributions undoubtedly helped advance the goals and mission of the SFPE Oklahoma Chapter and life safety around the state. The resounding echoes of his dedication to our United States military, the fire service, and the field of fire protection will be heard for years to come. As so eloquently stated by some of our chapter’s board members:

    “He was there when our chapter began. Our profession would not be the same without his many influences and unwavering dedication to getting it right.”

    “Richard prioritized the well being of the Oklahoma National Guard personnel and general public over all other stakeholders.” “I have no doubt that Richard’s actions reduced and continue to reduce the life safety risk in OMD facilities.” “Richard’s passing is saddening and sobering. I wish his family well and want them to know that Richard lives on in my life through his impact on the fire protection industry throughout Oklahoma.”

    “He was one of the people that helped to form the landscape of fire safety in Oklahoma that we know today and he will be missed.” “He devoted much of his life to the safety of others and as far back as I can remember through his many years with the state, the years with Oklahoma military department, and his years instructing at OSU.” “Fire safety was always in the forefront of his mind and he was a huge supporter of SFPE. Always willing to step up and assist the organization that he helped build…”

    You are in our prayers and thoughts. Thank you

  69. I knew your father at UCO when he taught forensic classes through the chemistry department. So very sorry to hear of his passing. Will keep your family in prayer. Please let us know when his memorial service will be. There are some of us who remember hi with great fondness and respect. We’d like to be able to pay our respects.

  70. I’ve lost my heroes as well. All you can do is continue their legacy. It sounds as though you are doing just that. Blessings and healing for your sweet mom.

  71. I’m so sorry for your loss. It was difficult to read about this heartbreaking situation but you wrote a wonderful tribute. I’m still very afraid for my parents, my dad especially who is high risk. I hope your mother is fully recovered.

  72. She is, for the most part. Been a wild ride with this post making it all the way to the New York Times and seeing my interview on multiple news segments. Starting to settle down, though. And just remember that “high risk” doesn’t necessarily mean a death sentence. My mom is 74 with chronic lung disease and she beat it without severe symptoms.

  73. That’s a relief to hear and she’s got to be one tough lady. They still know far too little about this thing and why it affects people so differently. My father is diabetic so he’s got that going against him. Whoa, this post went a long way! I’m sure this as well as the interview touched many people who read and listened. Best wishes to you and your family as you heal.

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