Veronica Fletcher’s life goal was to raise her three children with her 16-year-old husband, Joseph Fletcher, a man she felt was proud to be a father who would wear clothes with his children’s faces on them. But COVID-19 has stolen her life partner.
“If I lose him, I will physically lose a part of me and my future as well,” she said.
Fletcher worked for the MTA for over 17 years. It was based at the Flatbush Bus Depot. He became very ill at the beginning of the pandemic. On April 11, 2020, ten days after going on a ventilator, Joseph died. He was 60 years old. His wife and children were unable to give him a funeral due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Being exposed, they couldn’t even comfort each other with hugs.
“I know he’s in a better place now and he’s no longer in pain,” Madison Fletcher said of her father.
Madison, 10, and her brothers, Joshua, 16, and Zachary, 13, are not alone. According to this year’s report from the Citizens Committee for Children called Keeping Track of New York City’s Children, 4,730 New York children lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19 from March 2020 to December 2021. The committee, which uses research to Advocate for public funds for children, says these households face loss of life, income loss, housing instability and an increase in behavioral health needs due to the trauma of the loss of a parent.
Fletcher’s husband was the sole breadwinner. After he died, she had to visit food pantries to keep food on the table. She relies on support from her church and has met other widows and widowers on a Facebook group. She also does her best to keep her children connected to their father.
“We went to the grave and made a heart around the grave and planted flowers,” Zachary Fletcher said.
“When I was younger I used to go somewhere with him when he had to work, but I didn’t really take it the way I should have and pay attention and kind of see it as a learning experience. After he died, I understood what he was like,” said Joshua Fletcher. The 16-year-old finishes high school two years early. His father is not alive to see achievement.
“If the United States were a heart, imagine how many holes there are in that heart for those who are missing lives and then multiply the lives that are left and live with that loss,” said Veronica Fletcher.
Fletcher lost her own mother at a very young age. She says that terrible experience prepared her to mentor her children.
The family plans to launch a podcast to help other grieving families.