Much more to story behind heartbreaking Facebook photo


A Facebook post by a Garretson woman which reads: “This is the face of Covid 19,” is getting a lot of attention. It depicts the loneliness of loss as a daughter weeps at her mother’s coffin.
That mother, Darleen Smart, is one of four Touchmark All Saints residents who have died from COVID-19.

Jessica Walter’s photo of her aunt crying below her grandmother’s casket

Eighteen residents and five employees have tested positive at Touchmark.

Rod Smart is the oldest of four children. He knows the risk he took to be by his mother’s side at Avera McKennan hospital as she died. He too is now sick with COVID-19. While KELOLAND News did speak with him on the phone today, he wasn’t feeling well enough to do an interview.
However, we did talk with his daughter, who posted the photo on Facebook, as well as his sister, who is in the photo.

“It was heart wrenching. It was like we didn’t help her cross over properly. You know it’s a hole left in your heart,” Robin Christensen said.

If ever a photo told the story, this one certainly expresses the devastation Robin Christensen felt at the loss of her mother. Her niece Jessica Walter took the picture.

“How lonely it actually is and not being able to hug my aunt, uncle and dad who just lost their mom. Not being able to comfort my grandpa because I don’t want to pass anything to him,” Walter said.

Jessica helped her 82-year-old grandfather set up a Zoom call in the middle of the night to say goodbye to his wife.

“She was very much in love with my father. They had been together since she was 14. So they have a long history together,” Christensen said.

“My grandpa said, ‘I’ll talk to you in the morning’ and he said, ‘I love you.’ and she was able to mouth, ‘I love you back.’ And then she really wasn’t responsive after that.”

Jessica Walter, on grandfather’s Zoom call with her grandmother
Rodney and Darlene Smart

The next morning, Jessica’s dad Rod, made the choice to be by his mother’s bedside as she died.

“My dad felt he would rather hold her hand when she died than be able to attend a burial. That was a trade-off for him. That was really important to him she did not die alone and I’m thankful for that.”

Four days later, Rod too was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“To go in a room, fully gowned up–gloves, gown on your clothes, mask and still contract it,” Walter said.

“It’s unfortunate he risked it and contracted it also. We’ve gone through so much already, I don’t want to lose my brother also,” Christensen said.

“He’s high risk. He has diabetes and a heart condition. He’s had heart attacks before so we’re all just saying prayers that he’ll make it through this next week,” Walter said.

Darlene’s son Rodney Smart and his daughter, Jessica Walter

Darleen Smart had been in Touchmark temporarily after a fall, but was on lockdown for the past several weeks. The family was told by the facility that she caught COVID-19 from an asymptomatic employee, who later got sick.

See the email from Touchmark to KELOLAND News below.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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