Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) described in an emotional interview that her oldest brother tested positive for the coronavirus while still hospitalized for pneumonia – and that his death “feels like something that didn’t have to happen.”
“Pneumonia really takes it out of you. And, you know, he’s old. And so he went to the rehab and was ready to go home. He was packed up and ready to go home when somebody tested positive, and they wouldn’t let him leave,” the former presidential candidate told The Atlantic about her brother Donald Reed Herring, 86.
“[T]hen he got sick, and then he died, by himself. That’s the hard part — really hard part,” Warren, 70, said, adding: “It just feels like something that didn’t have to happen.”
Warren continued: “It’s hard to process things like this because everything is happening at a distance. And human beings—we’re not set up for that. We’re wired to be with each other. It makes it hard.”
She said she had previously three “very important people” in her life in close succession – her mother, father and Aunt Bee.
“Each of them died differently. My mother, very suddenly and unexpectedly. My daddy, lingering cancer. I held his hand as he died. With my mother, I had been there on the day that she died, in the night,” she told the magazine’s Edward-Isaac Dovere.
“My Aunt Bee got sick and then couldn’t recover. But I was with them. And I was with my brothers and my cousins and my kids. And we shared memories; we grieved together,” she said.
When Warren heard that her brother had tested positive for COVID-19, she said “it’s like that note you hear far off—a warning. And I remember thinking I couldn’t breathe. And he said, ‘Bets’—he’d call me Bets or Betsy always—‘I feel fine. I feel fine.’
What made him extra special was his smile—quick and crooked, it always seemed to generate its own light, one that lit up everyone around him. pic.twitter.com/SFMOaBVCN3
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 23, 2020
“And for 11 days, I’d call him in the morning, call him in the evening, and he’d tell me, ‘Oh, it’s fine,’ and laugh. And he was irritated that he couldn’t leave. And I had begun to think, This is okay. We’re going to get him out of there. In fact, I’d been talking: Would David—my other brother—be the one to pick him up, or was John going to come? You know what I mean: working on the logistics of how to get him out of there.”
But then she began to worry when he didn’t answer when she called.
“Then I found out they put him in intensive care. I would get the information via the nurses about what his blood-oxygen levels were,” she said. “And all I could do would be talk by phone with my brothers. It’s not the same. You need to touch people. We have to hug; we have to be with each other.”
After rallying briefly, Herring “took another dip and it went all the way down.”
“It’s always hard to lose someone you love. But to lose someone when you have to wonder: What were their last days like? Were they afraid? Were they cold? Were they lonely? That is a kind of grief that is new to all of us. And my brothers won’t get over this. They just won’t. None of us will.”