'Dad would want me to be strong': Family leans on faith after losing father, husband to COVID-19

Many people have experienced loss at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic, including Denise Chandler, who lost her husband and father to COVID-19 just weeks apart.

"To lose two of the most influential men in my life, so suddenly, so quickly. it 100% rocked my world," she said. 

Her husband Richard died last March and her father Denver Lee died 18 days later.

"I didn’t know what to do, how to react. I had eight children in the house that was depending on me to help them get through their grief. But I can 100% say all of my strength, everything I’ve endured, and my ability to get through this has been nothing but God. I take no credit for my ability to survive this year," Chandler said.

Chandler’s 12-year-old son Kodie was the first to fall ill. When Chandler got sick, he was forced to go to the emergency room. 

Denise Chandler and husband Richard.

Chandler got Richard to Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit at 9 p.m. on a Saturday. By 6:05 p.m. Sunday, he was gone.

"If I could, if I  would’ve known that would be the last time I would lay eyes on him alive and well, despite the possibilities of COVID, I would’ve hugged him. I would’ve kissed him. I would’ve told him it was going to be OK," Chandler said. 

Chandler said breaking the news to her children was difficult, but Kodie’s faith helped them through.

"Just moments after hearing the most devastating news of his life, he says, ‘Mom, let’s pray.’ He says, ‘Come on, you guys, let’s pray,’" Chandler said. "Even though he lost his father, he was still able to say, ‘God is going to help us get through this.’ My son looked at me when he got done praying and said, ‘Mom, dad would want me to be strong.’"

Denise Chandler lost her husband Richard and father Denver Lee within weeks to COVID-19.

The Chandler family is still grieving from the losses experienced last year, but those tragedies brought forth a powerful lesson.

"If nothing else that I’ve learned in this year, in this season, is to not take anything for granted, to be grateful for every single day, grateful for every moment, grateful for the people you have in your life, who love you and to love on them without fail on a daily basis," Chandler said. 

Denise Chandler and father Denver Lee.