coronavirus pandemic

‘He Was My Best Friend': Escondido Family Loses Father to COVID-19

NBC Universal, Inc.

“It just doesn’t feel real that he’s not here.”

William Lira, 18, misses spending time with his father. 

“He wasn’t only my dad, he was my best friend,” William told NBC 7.

His dad, a father of five, died from complications related to COVID-19. Gabriel Lira was only 42-years-old.

Lira was a fast-food worker who dreamed of someday owning his own restaurant. He loved cooking for family and friends. 

COVID-19 changed everything.

In early December, Lira’s wife, who also works in the fast-food industry, got the virus. She began quarantining in a bedroom of the family’s Escondido home.

Two of her children also became ill. By Christmas, William said the house felt empty with most of the family distancing themselves to stop the spread.  Christmas was the day Gabriel Lira was notified that his COVID-19 test was positive.

Two days later, Gabriel Lira was admitted to Palomar Hospital, where he spent the last weeks of his life struggling to breathe. Lira spent most of his time “upside-down” said William. “I got to the hospital and I saw him laying down and suddenly I felt tears, seeing my dad in that position in the bed, hooked up to machines.”

William recalled watching his father have two heart attacks through an observation window where he stood with other family members. 

“It was too much. Too much for me, my mom, my family to witness that,” Williams said.

After that, William, a high school senior, decided it was time to let his father go. “I said my goodbyes through the window.”

Gabriel Lira died on January 21.

“I know that he’s watching over us.  He’s always gonna be here in my heart,” said William.

William, who himself recovered from COVID-19, admitted he didn’t think the virus was much of a threat at first. He now knows the truth.

“COVID isn’t something to joke around with.” 

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Lira family with expenses.

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