Rita Marquez-Mendoza has always been close to her two teenage grandsons, Nathan and Isaiah, but she never imagined that she’d become the closest thing they’d have to a mom or a dad. Her daughter Noehmi died ofin July at just 39 years old. Mendoza said she had to say goodbye to her over the phone.
“I had to tell her to go ahead and go home, that we would take care of Carlos, then we would take care of the boys,” Mendoza told CBS News’ Janet Shamlian.
Carlos was the boys’ father, who Rita said she loved as one of her own. Days after Noehmi died, Carlos became sick with COVID-19 as well. He died 15 days later and the boys were orphaned.
“They’ve lost their mom and their dad in two weeks’ time. We were still in shock over Noehmi passing away. We hadn’t even begun to grieve yet. We were still in shock when they called us and tell us that Carlos passed away,” she recalled.
Every week she takes the boys to visit the double gravesite where their parents are buried side-by-side.
“You mainly do it for your comfort because that’s all that you can do. You can’t go see them at their home. You can’t go out to eat with them. And that’s the only place that you have to go with them,” Mendoza said.
Nathan and Isaiah have joined an unimaginable group of children who have lost both parents to the coronavirus. Like the pandemic overall, experts say communities of color and their children have been hit hardest.
Both Nathan and Isaiah said that they are doing good but wish their parents were still with them.
“We miss them driving us around in Galveston, going by the beach and getting off places to go explore stuff over there,” Nathan said.
“Yeah, I also miss my mom’s cooking,” Isaiah added.
For every COVID death, a study found nine people will be impacted: losing a parent, child, spouse, sibling, or grandparent. There’s no tracking of how many children have been orphaned by the virus.
Mendoza, who has already raised five of her children, is now taking care of Nathan and Isaiah. The boys live in Mendoza’s home in Houston, where they help care for the horses and chickens the family keeps. Rita’s son and daughter-in-law are trying to adopt the boys.
A GoFundMe was created to help Nathan and Isaiah pursue their dreams — Isaiah aspires to be an engineer and Nathan wants to be a mechanical engineer. Mendoza says seeing the boys reach those dreams would be something her daughter would have liked to see.
“Yes, yes, yes. She would want her children where they are now because she knows that they’re loved, they’ve always been loved. And more than anything, she knows that this is where Isaiah and Nathan would want to be,” she said.
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