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Family Of Colorado's First Victim Tried To Provide A Good Death At A Distance


One of the first people in Colorado to die of COVID-19 was retired Denver attorney Mike Farley, who was 87. His family members had to say their final goodbyes over video chat. Here's Colorado Public Radio's John Daley.

JOHN DALEY, BYLINE: Mike Farley's wife Nancy says for decades, his passion was helping house those experiencing homelessness.

NANCY: He loved to drive by the sites that they had built and see families out in the yards playing.

DALEY: Mike Farley's illness came on fast in early March. Nancy and Mike were watching a movie with friends. He started to cough violently and couldn't stop.

NANCY: Well, we were extremely worried. We thought, oh, my goodness; maybe this is the dreaded virus.

DALEY: Five days later, Nancy took Mike to the emergency room.

NANCY: And that's the last I saw of him.

DALEY: The hospital admitted Mike, but no visitors were allowed. Soon, he was moved to an intensive care isolation unit. His son John says a nurse taught Mike how to FaceTime on his phone. He offered grim advice.

JOHN: He explained to me that he didn't think it was good news at all, that it really means that we need to say our goodbyes just in case. And so we did.

DALEY: John said his dad was struggling but desperately wanted to connect.

JOHN: And tell me how much he loved me, how much he wants me to look after my mom and how much he loves my sister and her family.

DALEY: Next night, John spoke to his dad, but things had gotten worse. John said he looked forward to talking the next day.

JOHN: And he said very directly that he didn't think that was going to happen, but he hoped so. That was the last time we spoke.

DALEY: Mike spoke to his daughter Maggie, too, saying it was not the end-of-life situation he'd hoped for.

MAGGIE: He said he felt like his life was complete, but he just wasn't ready to hand it over yet. He did make a very brave choice in the end. He chose not to be vented - not to be put on a ventilator.

DALEY: On Monday, five days after entering the hospital, the family gathered via FaceTime for Mike's last rites. Maggie says she was glad they could talk, even if it was only over the phone. But...

MAGGIE: When he died, I thought it was a tragedy. I felt so sad for him because he was essentially dying alone, and I know he didn't want to.

DALEY: Maggie, who traveled a lot, wondered if she could've given her dad the virus.

MAGGIE: I said, Dad, if I gave this to you, please forgive me. I was trying to be so careful. He absolved me. I mean, that was a real gift. And he said, you did not give this to me. It doesn't add up. And I could've gotten it anywhere - at the doctor's office or at the grocery store.

DALEY: Mike Farley's family held a virtual Irish wake via a Zoom video. One cousin noted it was the first wake he'd been to that didn't require pants. The farewell seemed fitting, with tears and humor. Maggie recalled when asked what he wanted for his birthday or Christmas, her dad would always say...

MAGGIE: All I want is love and a few kind words.

DALEY: She says when they said goodbye, Mike Farley got that in abundance.

For NPR News, I'm John Daley in Denver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

John Daley