Marcus Lee, a husband, father of two, Navy veteran and federal government worker from Fort Worth, died Friday of coronavirus.
He was 40.
"He was so sweet,” his wife Karlisha Lee said in an interview Tuesday. “He was always giving."
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The two became sweethearts at Southwest High School.
"We were friends first,” she said. “Later I found out he had a crush on me while we were friends."
They married a few years later and he joined the U.S. Navy.
They had two children.
Matthew is now 12.
Madalynn is nine.
After moving around the country and an assignment in Bahrain, Lee left the Navy in 2015 and got a job as an administrator at the Small Business Administration in Fort Worth.
On Easter Sunday, he started feeling sick, his wife said.
"He complained of soreness in his chest when he took a deep breath,” she said.
He went to a medical clinic, which called an ambulance to transport him to the hospital.
He was admitted to Texas Health Harris Southwest Hospital with a fever and an elevated heart rate, Karlisha Lee said.
His condition worsened.
Tuesday morning, he had more trouble breathing and was moved into the intensive care unit.
On Wednesday, doctors put him on a ventilator.
Friday night, his wife’s phone rang.
"They called and let me know his heart stopped and that they tried for a half-hour to resuscitate him but were unable to get it to start back up,” she said. “But I'm very grateful to those doctors and nurses because they did things they didn't have to do and they put themselves at risk to try to keep him here with us. And that means a lot to us."
Like all coronavirus patients, his family wasn’t allowed to visit him in the hospital.
So nurses arranged online video calls.
"We had some really great discussions and jokes and laughs and he got to talk to the kids and pray for the kids over the phone and said good night and he loved them,” she said. “The kids know that's the last thing they said to each other.”
The high school sweethearts also said the same words to each other, she said.
I love you.
"So that's the last thing he said to me and that's the last thing I said to him,” his wife said.
The hardest part going forward, she said, will be raising their children without their father.
"It's hard but we sat down and we talked and we cried,” she said. “They've both been really great.”
Her son told her, 'Well, I'm going to help be the man of the house now,” she said.
"He's been really strong for a 12-year-old boy who just lost his dad,” she said.
Marcus Lee will be buried at the DFW National Cemetery in Dallas.
But in another casualty of the virus, he won’t get military honors and his family can’t be at the graveside.
"They're going to give me the flag,” his wife said.
Karlisha Lee said what happened to her husband is proof the virus can strike anyone.
Her husband had diabetes but otherwise was in good health, she said.
"I know this quarantine is hard and people want to get out,” she said. “They're frustrated and I understand that."
But she said her story provides a powerful lesson.
"I just want everyone to know just be as careful as you can and make sure you tell your loved ones how much they mean to you,” she said.
The day after her husband died, Karlisha penned a message to her family and friends:
"My heart breaks from the loss of my high school sweetheart, my Pumpkin, my love, my true best friend of 23 years and husband of 18. My heart breaks for our son who won’t have his dad there to teach him how to shave or how to drive a car. My heart breaks for our daddy’s girl daughter who won’t have her dad there to bully her boyfriends or walk her down the aisle. My heart breaks for our family who loved Marcus more than words. I am truly devastated. I ask that all the prayers you can send, please send. We will need them all the more now."