Family’s first Christmas without wife and mother lost on pandemic’s front line

Elsie fell ill with coronavirus symptoms towards the end of March, not long after England’s first lockdown was announced.

Ken Sazuze will be spending Christmas with his two children this year, but it will not be celebrations as usual. Instead, he says, they may play a few games, do prayers over Zoom, and visit his late wife’s grave.

It is the family’s first year without Elsie Sazuze: wife, a mother-of-two and care home nurse who died in April after contracting coronavirus.

“For us, it is not Christmas,” Ken Sazuze tells The Independent.

“It is impossible to celebrate it. It’s feeling weird,” the 45-year-old from Birmingham says. “Even the house, it doesn’t feel like a home anymore. It just feels like a house.”

He adds: “Her absence speaks volumes.”

The 44-year-old loved her job as a care home worker, her husband says, as she “loved looking after people”.

“As long as she was given the opportunity to have her weekends off, she was OK. She never worried or never complained,” Ken says. “All she wanted was to be with her family,” he adds.

She was taken into hospital after struggling to breathe one night, and was transferred to intensive care shortly afterwards, telling Ken to look after the children – 22-year-old Andrew and 16-year-old Anna – if she didn’t make it home.

“That blew my mind,” Ken recalls. He told her “not to speak like that”, but she reassured him it was just in case.

“That was the last conversation we ever had,” Ken says. Elsie died a few days later.

“That was just within a week, from working to losing her life.”

Since then, he says the family have been “struggling”, with him also out of work at the moment.

They have been helped by the Healthcare Workers’ Foundation. The charity, which supports NHS workers, has helped Ken’s son to find a mentor and an internship at a global accounting and consulting firm; given the family counselling vouchers; and is even planning to send the Sazuzes on holiday. “They’ve been very kind to me and the children,” Ken says.

The charity has launched a new Family Fund just ahead of Christmas, dedicated to supporting families of NHS staff who have died from Covid-19.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 620 health and care home worker deaths involving Covid-19 from the start of the pandemic up until July.

Like the Sazuzes, their families are facing a difficult Christmas.

Ken says they do not feel able to celebrate the festive season as usual this year. “In our house at the moment, being the first Christmas without her, it doesn’t feel normal,” he adds.

However, he is not bitter for those able to celebrate with families. “I have no problem with people celebrating and having a good time, if it brings joy in their faces, and if it brings love and kindness to one another,” he says.

“It’s something we need, as the world needs more kindness.”

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