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Arlington woman dies of COVID-19 surrounded by family

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Before walking out the door on the morning of a big test or game or interview, Audrey Prescott’s seven children knew what their mom expected to hear out of their mouths: “I can do it.”


“I don’t hear it, it’s not loud enough,” she’d respond. So they’d repeat, with greater enthusiasm, “I can do it.”


“She would do that with all of her kids, and each of her grandkids,” said her son, John Prescott, a parishioner of St. Ann Church in Arlington. “It was just a wonderful way of building one’s self confidence.”


The cheerful, can-do mantra was the last thing her granddaughter Allie Prescott told her before Audrey died from COVID-19, three days shy of her 91st birthday.


As the coronavirus arrived in Northern Virginia, John and his wife Charlotte, both physicians, decided to move Audrey out of her assisted living facility and into their Arlington home. “We had heard some of the stories about out west, how people could not visit their loved ones,” he said. “My mom was getting increasingly frail and sometimes confused, so it was important to have family contact.”


 But the family still had health care workers come into their home to take care of Audrey, and they suspect that’s how she contracted COVID-19. She had a high fever, chills that made her teeth chatter and a loss of appetite, said John. Soon, he, Charlotte and their daughter Allie, who had moved back home during the pandemic, began to develop symptoms. John and Audrey got tested, and their results came back positive. Charlotte and Allie were presumed positive.


It was difficult to care for Audrey and themselves, said John. They experienced terrible headaches, fatigue, a cough and a loss of taste. “As individuals, we were simultaneously confronting our own illness and mortality,” he said. “There is no doubt that (God) gave us the strength to care for my mother even as we were ill. The days and nights during those several weeks were a blur — our faith was a constant guide.


“Initially, we were praying for (my mother’s) recovery,” said John. “As it became apparent that she was nearing death, we prayed that God would welcome her into his arms. We all believed that she would be entering heaven and would be reunited with my dad, sister and others.”


There were some moments of levity during their illness. John’s sister, who also lives in Arlington, was able to see their mother outdoors and from afar during her final days. Another day, Allie and Audrey sat outside, listening to Dolly Parton, feeling the sun on their skin and pretending they were at the beach instead.


On Holy Saturday, Audrey slipped into a coma. She died a few days later with her son at her side. “She was at peace with where her life had taken her and she was at peace with God for sure,” he said. “We were very privileged to be able to be with her at that time.”


John’s pastor, Missionhurst Father Ramel O. Portula, prayed with Audrey and the family over the phone before she died. And after she died, another clergyman began to pray for the family: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge. Bishop Burbidge had asked diocesan chancery employees to make phone calls to check on local Catholics, and John received such a call not long after his mother’s death. John explained his situation, and the employee promised to let Bishop Burbidge know. A few days later, Bishop Burbidge called the family. “It was just incredibly comforting,” said John.


The Prescotts have not been able to have a funeral for Audrey, but John and Charlotte recently attended a Mass at St. Ann celebrated for the repose of her soul, one of the few Masses they’ve attended since the pandemic began.


Fortunately, John, Charlotte and Allie have all made a full recovery. “Allie just ran a half marathon this past Saturday,” said John.


He has full confidence the world will return to normal in the future, especially if people wear masks, wash their hands and socialize outdoors as much as possible. “We can do this if we do it together,” he said. “We need to decrease the incidence of the virus, and then we’ve got to work on this vaccine. That’s where my prayers are right now.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020