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After husband’s death from COVID-19, wife searches for peace and healing

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Nina Matias thought she would be the one who would be severely hit by the coronavirus, not her husband.

Mon, short for Ramon, was healthy and fit; he had just turned 59 and didn’t have any underlying conditions, only a little hypertension, mild and under control. He always went in for his checkups.

But he came home one day from the bank branch where he was assistant manager and said one of the tellers had tested positive for COVID-19. Sent home to self-quarantine, he developed a backache, which soon evolved into a fever and shortness of breath. When his test results came back positive for the virus, the rest of the family got tested and learned they also had it.

But while their symptoms abated, Mon’s got worse. Their daughter, Nica, 28, a paramedic, saw his oxygen levels drop and took him to the hospital, where he remained for almost a month.

“I was so scared and worried,” Nina said. “We thought he was getting better, but then his lung collapsed. He was intubated and there was one complication after another.”

He died May 27, and Nina is still in shock. “I am very far from being OK,” she admitted. “I am just surviving, taking it day by day, sometimes hour by hour. It never occurred to me that this could happen to our family.”

Nina moved to the United States 10 years ago from the Philippines, but Mon stayed behind for his job, coming over on vacations and finally joining the family in Virginia full time three years ago.

He became an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and joined the Knights of Columbus at St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax. “He’s very religious, he goes to church almost every day,” said Nina who, three months after his death, still speaks of her husband in the present tense.

Her family moved her to Charlottesville last week to be in a peaceful environment where she can focus on healing, while teleworking and caring for her 26-year-old son who has autism.

“We decided I needed to be away from Fairfax for a while,” she said. She and her husband “were always together, and it was hard for me going to places where we always would go.”

Her daughter, who works in Culpeper, lives with her; her youngest son, who just graduated from college, is in Richmond, not far away. “He was able to find a job right away,” Nina said. “I’m sure my husband is so proud of him.”

In Charlottesville, she goes to support groups, watches Mass online and prays the rosary every day.

And before leaving Fairfax, she went to St. Leo’s, to be with Mon.

“I know he loves the church and is always in the church, so if I want to be with him, I need to go there to be with him,” she said. “I feel he’s there and I know he’s going to be happy I’m there.”

Read the entire "Faces of COVID" series, here.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020