Kentucky sisters lose parents, grandfather to COVID-19 in one month

By MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A Kentucky family is mourning the loss of three members due to COVID-19 in nearly four weeks.

Husband-and-wife Mark Cheatham, 61, and Lisa Cheatham, 58, died within days of each other this month. The couple, who had been married for 40 years, were buried together this past weekend following a joint funeral service.

Lisa Cheatham’s father, Charles Tucker, died on Nov. 22, two days after turning 76.

All three died from COVID-19, their relatives said.

“If you would’ve told me that COVID would wipe out half of the family that we have left, I would have been like no, you’re joking,” Jama Allen, one of Lisa and Mark’s two daughters, told ABC Louisville affiliate WHAS-TV, calling the loss of her parents the “deepest tragedy” of her life.

Her sister, Jessica Cheatham, recounted sleeping in the parking garage of the Louisville hospital where both her parents were hospitalized in the intensive care unit earlier this month with COVID-19.

“I was really scared to leave them,” she told WHAS. “I wanted to be nearby.”

Mark Cheatham, who was a heavy equipment operator for the Kentucky Transportation Department, died on Dec. 11. Lisa Cheatham, a recently retired family services worker and educator, died four days later, on Dec. 15. The couple, who lived in Campbellsville, were active members of their church and, pre-pandemic, enjoyed traveling, the family said.

“It’s unreal to walk in the door and they’re not here,” Allen told WHAS. “You keep waiting for them to pop around the corner and they’re not.”

Her grandfather, also from Campbellsville, was memorialized as a farmer who enjoyed ax throwing and chainsaw contests and spending time with his dog.

As the sisters prepare to spend the holidays for the first time without their parents, they urged others to stay home and follow COVID-19 guidelines.

“I could’ve went one Christmas without seeing my parents, but now we spend the rest of the lives without ours,” Jessica Cheatham told the station. “So I would maybe take that into consideration. It’s one Christmas. One Christmas and then you can spend all the Christmases together. Because some people have an option and we don’t.”

COVID-19 cases in Kentucky have been on a downward trend, following a peak in late November. Hospitalizations have also been on the decline in the past week.

Gov. Andy Beshear urged Kentuckians to keep their holiday celebrations small amid the state’s progress, warning that cases are still “too high.”

“With the rest of the country on fire, with hospitalizations escalating in most every other state, in Kentucky, we are seeing a stabilization that is protecting the lives of our people,” he said Tuesday during a COVID-19 briefing. “And we want to make sure that we continue to plateau or even decrease cases as we move towards this vaccine.”

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