(CNN) — A family got the heartbreaking news of their father’s death from coronavirus as they were trying to lift his spirits with signs outside his hospital window.
However, despite their grief, they decided to continue encouraging the staff who had worked to care for him.
It all started with a simple sheet
Rene Johnson, 65, contracted coronavirus in a nursing home while trying to recover from some health issues, daughter Angela Daneault said. When he started having trouble breathing, he was moved to Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire.
That’s when the idea for the sign started.
Johnson’s son Kevin spray-painted a sheet that said, “We love you, Dad!” and “We miss you, Dad!”
“My brother is the one that started it all and it just became infectious and contagious for us all to find new ways to show my dad we were close to him even though we weren’t there,” Daneault said.
At first, Johnson couldn’t see the signs from his window, but as he got progressively worse, he was moved to a room that had a window with a park view.
The family spent hours a day out in the park holding up signs of hope and encouragement for their father and the staff treating him.
“We decided to tape the signs to the railings for the nurses so the signs could stay out there continuously, even after we left,” Daneault said.
“The nurses and the doctors and the staff were just so responsive to us being out there. .. They were making hearts in the windows, waving to us (and) it actually brought hope to them.”
One of the nurses would come down out of her PPE gear twice a week to spend some time with the family.
Heartbreak leads to new family
When their father died May 17, the staff inside called the family who was gathered in the park to tell them the news. Shortly after, nurses posted signs on his window that read “He is at peace. We are so sorry.”
“The nurses and the staff were communicating with us the whole time. The nurses felt like this was it. The final goodbye,” Daneault said.
“We would have loved to be by our dad’s side, but if we couldn’t we are extremely thankful that these compassionate, loving staff took our place for us.”
The family captured a photo of the notes, and the heartbreaking message spread on social media.
Daneault said the response has been overwhelming and she didn’t share the picture to gain sympathy, but for a very specific purpose.
“Let’s give these frontline workers a huge shout out. … They’re human just like us. They have families just like us. It’s all about paying it forward, giving back to them, appreciating them.”
The family even started a GoFundMe page in order to give back to the frontline workers who were with their father until the end.
They said they plan to bring the hospital staff care packages or specialty cupcakes with the money, depending on how much is raised. They may even try to get a local band to come and do a concert for the staff as well.
Daneault said they feel the nurses and staff are part of their family now.
“We truly cannot thank them enough,” Daneault said.
“They extended so much love towards us and so much compassion during such a heartbreaking time for all of us … I feel like it will never be enough to show how much we appreciate them.”