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'Unimaginable' pain: Coronavirus robs Michigan woman of whole family


Sandy Brown tried to calm her son, Freddie, alone and scared in a hospital intensive care unit. His father had died a few days earlier. Freddie, just 20, was worried he would die, too.

Talking on FaceTime throughout the night, Sandy recited Scripture and tried to slow his breathing. She sang spiritual songs to coax him to sleep, like a mom singing lullabies to her baby.

One day later, Freddie died. Imagine awakening from one nightmare only to slip into another. 
In three days last week, Brown lost her husband and son, Freddie Lee Brown Jr. and Freddie Lee Brown III, to the novel coronavirus.

“There’s not even a word created to describe my pain. It’s unimaginable,” she said. The younger Freddie — her "Boopie," her "Sonny Redd" — was her only child, so Brown’s family is all gone now.

If the two losses weren’t excruciating enough, COVID-19 comes with other tools of torture. It has ravaged every stage of Brown’s torment, from the illnesses to the deaths to the grieving. She couldn’t comfort her husband and son. She couldn’t say goodbye. Even in death, the virus hasn’t relinquished its hold. It made a mockery of funeral arrangements Friday. And it deprived Brown from receiving what she needs most right now, which is a hug.  

“You feel helpless,” said Andy Torok, who coached the younger Freddie when he played football for Grand Blanc High School. “You can’t go to the house and tell them it’s going to be all right.”

Sandy and Freddie Jr. of Grand Blanc were married 35 years. He was a gentleman from the olden days, holding the door for her, showering her with compliments, she said.

She is a real estate agent while he was a retired produce clerk who was a church elder and national service member with the Church of God in Christ.

Freddie, 59, was such a fashion plate that Flint-area ministers frequently sought his advice to look their finest, his pastor said.

“He took me to a tailor to get some suits adjusted,” said Kiemba Knowlin, pastor of Jackson Memorial Temple in Flint. “And he made sure he was there, guiding her.”

After two miscarriages, Sandy had given up on having a child when, at 40 years old, she became pregnant with Freddie III.

She called him their miracle child. The online obituary for Freddie III, written in the first person, described the pregnancy. “Listen y’all,” it reads, “my mom prayed and waited and waited and prayed 15 long years before God blessed her to conceive me.” Sandy chuckled as she described her son, who was a student at Mott Community College. 

He was sweet and shy but had a funny sense of humor, she said. And he was always positive. Freddie III also was a football fanatic who dreamed of playing for Michigan State University next year as a walk-on. “He ate, slept and drank the football team,” she said. “‘Mama, I’m gonna be on the football team, I’m gonna be on the football team.’” 

Freddie L. Brown Jr. and Freddie L. Brown III. Honey and Sonny, she called them. “Honey gone, now Sonny,” she said.

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