Jonathan Coelho was a devoted father and husband. He loved to watching the New England Patriots play Sunday night football, bear hugs, and the rock band Underoath. What’s more, he was raising a family that included a child with special health needs. Then he himself became gravely ill, and he had no idea that he would soon have to prepare to write his last words.
Leaving Behind A Note
By the time Katie Coelho arrived at the hospital, her husband, Jon, was already gone. In the weeks that preceded, her husband’s battle against COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, went from bad to worse. Because of strict rules and restrictions, she hadn’t seen Jon since he was admitted.
But Jon’s month-long battle with the disease ended in heartbreak. Katie was left having to say her last goodbyes in an isolated hospital room. When she received her late husband’s belongings, she immediately began to go through his phone, a last piece of Jon’s life. And then she saw it. There on the phone were his last words, left behind in a note.
In his 33 years of life, Jonathan had an undeniable effect on people. His friends described him as an all-around “amazing guy”, according to interviews conducted by Buzzfeed News. In his obituary, loved ones wrote about how Jon “had a smile that made anyone feel loved, and a hug that made you feel secure”.
Jon was also said to never hold a grudge or judge others. He was a New Englander, through and through. He loved everything having to do with the New England Patriots, and wouldn’t miss watching a game. And it was in New England that his life would ultimately change forever.
A Different Jon And Kate
Jonathan’s New England roots led him to apply to college not too far from home, at Western Connecticut State University. It was there that he met Katie. The two started out their relationship as close friends. But eventually, that developed into something much greater.
On a date in Boston, Jon finally made it “official”, asking Katie to be his girlfriend. “Are you sure?” Katie says she remembers responding. He was absolutely sure. After years of dating, Jon and Katie got married in 2013, starting what they thought would be a long and happy life together. But immediately, they faced some extreme difficulties.
Struggling To Build A Family
Both Katie and Jon knew that they wanted to start a family together. But the road to parenthood was much more difficult than either of them had expected. Katie told Buzzfeed News that the couple suffered two miscarriages, and had to turn to IVF in order to conceive.
But in 2018, the couple’s luck changed. The treatments had worked, and Katie was ready to deliver a baby boy. But when their son, Braedyn, was born, doctors immediately told them something was wrong. Their baby was given just six weeks to live.
A Tough Diagnosis
The doctors quickly diagnosed Braedyn with cerebral palsy, along with a host of other neurological issues. For six long weeks, the new parents watched their son fight to survive. And then, the six weeks passed and Braedyn continued to thrive, followed by another year, followed by more months, stunning medical professionals.
Together, the couple decided to share their son’s progress on Facebook, creating a page called “Journey for Braedyn”. Support and love poured in, but it would not be enough to keep this growing family, and their mountain of medical bills, afloat.
A Family Man
Braedyn was continuing to thrive when the couple found out that they were pregnant with baby number two, a girl. Jon worked overtime at a Connecticut state courthouse to make ends meet while his wife stayed home with the children.
“Jon was the sole provider for the family,” his college friend Jacob Wycoff told Buzzfeed News. “He worked hard to make sure Katie didn’t have to leave the house to take care of earning. But when it was his time with the kids, he really, really, enjoyed it.” And then, the entire world changed.
A Global Pandemic
The news was almost like it was coming from a dystopian thriller movie. Like everyone else in the world, Jon and Katie were slowly starting to hear about a deadly virus that was making its way across the globe. But immediately, Jon took the news seriously.
Braedyn was considered to be “high risk” if he contracted COVID-19. “My husband wore gloves, masks, he washed his hands,” Katie said in an interview. “He was so super vigilant because he was so afraid of what would happen to our son if he caught it.” But there were some things that Jon just could not avoid.
Working Through It
As a state employee, Jon was considered to be an essential worker, and had to continue going into the courthouse every day. And on March 24, he received a message that made his stomach drop. Jon was informed that he had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.
Jon was in good health when he got the message. Still, out of an abundance of caution for his family, he quarantined himself in a separate room in the house. Within 24 hours, Jon’s condition changed, beginning a series of events that would lead to tragedy.
Jonathan was starting to get worried. Within the same day that he had heard about his contact with the deadly virus, “he started coughing, and with the coughing fits, he wouldn’t be able to catch his breath in between,” Katie said in interviews.
Performing even the most mundane daily tasks made became too much for him. The short walk from his isolated bedroom to its attached bathroom would leave him out of breath. And as he waited out his illness, it progressively got worse.
Within days, Jonathan was experiencing constant aching headaches. He had persistent stomach pains, and couldn’t taste or smell. “It then worsened…he would be laying in bed and he felt as if something was constricting his throat,” Katie wrote in a Facebook post.
All the while, Katie struggled to watch her husband suffer from afar. As the sole caretaker of their children, Katie couldn’t risk comforting her husband, hugging him, or even being in the same room as him. And before long, they would not even be allowed in the same home together.
Admitted To The Hospital
After Jonathan’s situation was only worsening, “the doctor told him to go to the hospital because he’d probably need nebulizer treatments,” Katie said. Her husband was rushed to the hospital to be treated, and Katie was terrified of Jon’s uncertain future.
The couple was worried, but Katie was trying to remain optimistic. Her husband had been healthy all his life. He had no preexisting conditions, he never smoked, he always took every single precaution to keep himself and his family healthy. He would be okay, she told herself.
An Isolating Feeling
Having a spouse in the hospital is hard for anyone to go through. But for Katie, the situation was even worse, and even more dire. Even as her husband struggled to breathe, Katie was only allowed to hear updates over the phone.
Katie was not allowed in his hospital room, or even to enter the hospital at all. For every call from doctors informing her that the medication they had been trying was not working, she was not there to hold his hand. And soon, she wouldn’t even be able to hear her husband’s voice.
Missing The Call
On March 31, Jon called his wife to tell her the difficult news. “I don’t know why I put my phone on vibrate that night, but I did,” Katie told Buzzfeed News. “And I slept through a 4 a.m. phone call from him.”
On a voice message, Jon “said his breathing got a little weird in the night, so they said they’re gonna have to let his body rest so that he could come home to me and the kids, and that he loved us,” Katie recalled. It would be one of the last words she would hear in his voice.
Placed On A Ventilator
After that voice mail, Jon was placed on a ventilator. He was barely able to speak, but doctors hoped that he would make a full recovery. After a week, the doctors tried to wake Jon up, but his breathing was panicked. “They FaceTimed me, and he just said, ‘I love you and I’m sorry,’ and then they had to re-intubate him.”
Jon’s health continued to worsen. His kidneys were failing, and his fever rose by the day. He was barely able to speak over to speak to his family on the phone over the roar of his ventilator. But then, there was a sliver of hope.
Hopeful For A Recovery
The constant chain of bad-news phone calls was finally broken when Katie got word that Jon’s health was improving. Doctors began lessening his medications. They wanted to try taking Jon off of his ventilator for periods of time to see how he would respond.
At 9PM one night, Katie received an update from the doctor that the trials had been successful. “The doctor I’d spoken to said, ‘We’re going to be able to wake your husband up in two days’,” Katie said. “And they started talking to me about recovery.”
A Tragic, Unexpected Loss
Hours after Katie hung up the phone, Jon’s condition suddenly took a turn for the worst. And on April 22, 28 days after Jon first began battling COVID-19, and 20 days after he had been placed on the ventilator, the husband and father of two passed away. He was just 32 years old.
News of his cardiac arrest, which led to his death, came as a shock to Katie and her family. They had just received a positive prognosis. Doctors said he was getting better. She was just discussing his recovery, and she had just heard his voice, his last words out loud to her. She hadn’t gotten to say goodbye. But she was about to find out that Jon had already left behind one final note.
One Last Goodbye
It had been a month since Katie was able to touch her husband or even come close to him. But after he had passed, the doctors allowed her to come to the hospital to say her final goodbyes to her college sweetheart.
“I was able to sit with Jonathan in the ICU after it happened,” Katie wrote on the Journey for Braedyn Facebook page. “[I] just sat, cried and told him how much the kids and I loved him.” When it was finally time to go, Katie was given a bag with the items Jon had left behind. These included his iPhone.
A Remarkable Discovery
When Katie was handed the bag of Jon’s belongings, she immediately began to go through his phone, collecting memories of her husband. She saved pictures and videos, she took screenshots of text messages, trying to keep every last trace of her husband’s memory alive. And then she opened his Notes app.
Written at the top of his most recent note were some necessary instructions, things like passwords and instructions for paying the mortgage. And then, below it, he had left one last note to his wife and children, his last words, to be read by the people he loved most.
The first words gave Katie chills. The note was dated right before Jon began to be intubated, the same night that Katie had missed his phone call. “I love you guys with all my heart and you’ve given me the best life I could have ever asked for,” it started.
“I am so lucky it makes me so proud to be your husband and the father to Braedyn and Penny,” he wrote. And then he began what would be his final goodbye to his wife, the love of his life.
A Heartbreaking Goodbye
“Katie, you are the most beautiful, caring, nurturing person I’ve ever met,” Jonathan wrote. “You are truly one of a kind. Make sure you live life with happiness and that same passion that made me fall in love with you.”
The note continued, “Seeing you be the best mom to the kids is one of the great things I’ve ever experienced. Let Braedyn know he’s my best bud and I’m proud to be his father and for all the amazing things he’s done and continues to do.” Then, he addressed his daughter, who was just 10 months old.
21. “Always Be Happy”
“Let Penelope know she’s a princess and can have whatever she wants in life,” Jonathan wrote. “I am so lucky…” And in his final goodbye, Jonathan had one last message for his wife about her future. “Don’t hold back,” he commanded.
“And if you meet someone, know that if they love you and the kids that I love that for you,” he wrote. In his last line, he declared: “Always be happy no matter what!” Through tears, Katie read the message, in disbelief.
A Mix Of Emotions
There was no doubt in Katie’s mind about how much Jonathan loved her and the family they had built together. And this note was just another reminder of how thoughtful and caring Jonathan was, and how much he’d be missed.
“I’m so thankful I found the note, but the other part of me is sad,” Katie said in an interview. “Because I know how scared he was and where his mind must’ve been to think he had to write something like that.” But after reading the note, Katie knew what she had to do.
Sharing The Letter
With a global pandemic ravaging the entire globe, Katie knew that it was hard for people to connect the staggering number of deaths to a face, and to a life. So she decided to share her husband’s story on her family’s Facebook page.
Within minutes, the note began to gain attention around the world. Newspapers were writing about her husband, and television shows were reaching out for interviews. But most importantly, Katie was consumed by an outpouring of love and support. And then one day, she gave her followers yet another update.
Taking A Step Back
“I am so grateful people have been able to hear his words, and see who he was because Jonathan deserves every single praise for being the man he is,” Katie wrote on Facebook. “I’ve heard from all over the world what an amazing man he is, and how his love for us is undeniable.”
But with that being said, Katie had another announcement to share. She was taking a step back from all the interviews and all the social media accounts, in order to properly grieve. But by that time, millions of people around the world knew about her husband, his touching last words, and his incredible heart.
Life Without Jonathan
In the months since Jonathan passed away, Katie and her children have celebrated birthdays, first days of preschool, and successful milestones in Braedyn’s fight against his neurological issues. But for Katie, there will always be a void that will never be filled.
The Facebook page that Katie and Jonathan had created to celebrate their son’s accomplishments has turned into a place that celebrates Jonathan’s incredible life. And while he might not be there in person, Katie says that her children will always grow up with their father in their lives.
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