Grandfather Comforts His Crying Wife Through Care Facility Window amid Coronavirus Isolation
An elderly couple in New York who have been married for over 60 years is proving that their love can overcome any barrier — even if that barrier happens to be a care facility window.
Over the past year, Lauren Barber, 80, has been living in a memory care center near Albany without her husband Bob, 85, due to her dementia, her granddaughter Alicia Barber tells PEOPLE.
Though they aren’t living together anymore, Alicia, 24, says her grandparents haven’t missed a beat and Bob has been there every day to spend time with his wife.
“He’s super popular at the center. Everyone knows him,” she says. “He eats dinner with her and all the other residents every night, even though it’s not the best food… He always cheers her up and makes her laugh and then at the end of the night he makes sure that she is safe and comfortable in bed before leaving.”
However, Lauren and Bob’s routine was interrupted on March 14 as the coronavirus outbreak escalated, prompting Lauren’s care facility to close their doors to all visitors as a way to protect their at-risk residents.
Still, Bob didn’t let that get in the way. For nearly three weeks straight, he has been visiting Lauren from outside her window — and one of their sweet interactions was captured in a video on Alicia’s TikTok account.
In the emotional clip, Lauren cries over the fact that she can’t be with her husband, while Bob attempts to comfort her.
“I need to be with you,” she tells him, to which Bob responds, “I’d like to be with you too, but because of the illness, we can’t do it… This is the best we can do for now… Don’t cry, Lauren. I love you too, but don’t cry.”
Their heartbreaking interaction has since gone viral, garnering over 814,000 likes and 14,000 comments praising their love — something that has been evident to Alicia from the start.
“It’s just been amazing to watch these two people who I’ve known my whole life go through so much and just to see my grandfather, in particular, providing so much care,” Alicia says of her grandparents, who have been married since 1958.
“It’s a testament to their love,” she adds of the video. “It’s a testament to my grandfather’s strength and compassion during this time.”
For Alicia, it’s no surprise that her grandfather has been making daily visits.
After Lauren started to show signs of dementia five years ago, Bob tried as hard as he could to keep Lauren at their home. Unfortunately, her condition declined and her health and safety became too much to manage on his own.
“My family really pulled together and they did everything they could to keep her at home for as long as possible,” Alicia explains. “Someone from my family, for about a year, was there every single night to help my grandfather, [but] she needed a lot of care and support.”
Though it was “really difficult” on her grandfather, Alicia says Bob has “done the best that anyone can do” with the situation, even noting that he’s sweetly braved weather elements to be with Lauren over these past two weeks.
“There was water and snow falling on him from the roof and my aunt happened to be driving past to drop stuff off and she saw him and came out with an umbrella because he was getting all wet,” she recalls. “He’s still making sure that she’s never alone and she’s always able to see him.”
“He’s really the only one that she remembers every day. [She asks], ‘Where’s Bob? Where’s my husband?’ That really makes me happy that she still has that joy of loving him,” Alicia says of her grandparents.
While it has been difficult to watch her grandmother get emotional and struggle to understand why Bob can’t come inside, Alicia says she has found comfort in knowing how much Lauren still cares about her husband amid her challenges.
“It would’ve been more upsetting for me if she didn’t recognize my grandfather or wasn’t sad she couldn’t see him,” Alicia says. “It gives me a little silver lining that at least she continues to know who he is and love him and be with him because when that goes out, it’ll be really hard.”
“They’ve really served as my view of what ideal love is, seeing the lengths that [my grandfather] would go to really put into perspective when you love someone, what you’ll do for them and how everyone should find someone who will go outside their window if they can’t be with them,” she continues.
As people around the globe continue to admire Lauren and Bob’s love, Alicia — who is earning her PhD in neuroscience at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire — hopes viewers will also take away something else from the video.
“I hope people see it as a reason for adhering to the measures that everyone is taking with social distancing,” she explains. “I know there’s been some issues, particularly with younger people, not seeing themselves as vulnerable to the illness, so they don’t feel like they have to follow social distancing as much.”
“Maybe viewing [the video gives] an example of those who are really affected by this and why all of us doing our part and staying at home would help my grandparents and help the millions of other people who are in similar situations,” she says.
As of Friday morning, there have been at least 85,724 cases and 1,275 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the New York Times. New York currently leads the country with at least 38,987 reported cases and 432 deaths.
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