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One Bloomington Man Shares His Experience Of Loss, Recovery During COVID-19

audrey and ken

Audrey and Ken Beckley. (Courtesy of Ken Beckley)

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 Hoosiers in the last year.

It’s difficult to understand the magnitude of a number like that until you start talking to people who have lost loved ones. And how they’re aching for more time with a wife, brother, sister, or mother.

Bloomington local Ken Beckley shares his experience with recovery and loss during the pandemic.

He and his wife, Audrey Beckley, expected to live out retirement together in their Bloomington home.

Then in August 2020, they were both diagnosed with COVID-19.

“We took all the precautions we thought were you know, those of Dr. Fauci and those at a national level," Ken said. "And followed those strictly, and somehow we both got COVID.”

Ken was extremely sick for a week, but was able to recover. 

Five days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Audrey died at IU Health Bloomington Hospital.

“One of the sad things about that was of course, I had COVID," he said. "Which... it struck me hard. But she was alive during that time so I had to keep going.”

He wasn’t allowed to visit Audrey in the hospital. Ken spoke on FaceTime with her the day before she died.

"I had a chance to tell her goodbye and say everything that I wanted to say to her."

"A wonderful nurse in the ICU named Nora held Audrey’s cell phone three times that day for me to talk to her," he said. "I had a chance to tell her goodbye and say everything that I wanted to say to her.”

Audrey was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at 25, and Ken says one of her most admirable qualities was her positive approach to life.  

“She would always say, 'I’m not going to let MS run my life. I’m going to control my life,' at least as much as she could," he said. "Nothing’s going to get Audrey Beckley down, I guarantee you that.”

Their home is filled with memories of their life together. 

"We’d been so fortunate in our lives, even during my professional careers to travel a great deal internationally, so we got to do that," Ken said. "Fortunately, we weren’t a couple that said ‘Well, we’ll wait till we’re retired.' There was virtually no place we wanted to go anymore. But we did have plans.”

ken and audrey vacation
Ken and Audrey on vacation. (Courtesy of Ken Beckley)

Ken said the loss of Audrey hit him hard in January; morning and evenings alone were especially difficult.

“The weight of it all just started hitting me," he said. "That’s when for me, faith and prayer and the support of my friends was just of enormous importance.” 

Ken and Audrey were together for 59 years and married for almost 56.

"We had a great time and that’s what made losing her really, really tough," Ken said.

Ken got his first COVID-19 shot this week and is expecting the announcement of the birth of his and Audrey’s fourth great-grandchild soon. 

Ken said though it looks like progress is being made in fighting COVID-19, it's too early for people to lower their guards just yet, and lifting public health orders would be premature.  

After Audrey’s death, a small service for family and close friends was held. She’s buried at a site in Lynnville, Indiana, Ken’s hometown.

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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