(WPIX/CNN) – A New Jersey community is grieving the loss of a mother and son who died a week apart from coronavirus.
The coronavirus death toll is now over 7,000 in New York, and tops 1,700 in New Jersey.
Behind every one of those numbers is a face, a name and loved ones in mourning.
“Carolyn was completely wrapped up in Thomas and Thomas in her as well. They were just very very close. He was her world and like I said she the same for him,” their friend, Dana Regan, said.
Carolyn Martins Reitz was a devoted mother and caretaker for her beloved son who had Down Syndrome. She died in late March.
Her son, Thomas, died a little over a week later on his 30th birthday.
“We got the staff together on a Zoom session and sang happy birthday all together. We recorded it and then I was able to talk to Thomas a little bit and give him some stories and what was going on, and play that video for him so he can hear us all wishing him a happy birthday,” Regan said.
Thomas passed away hours after they sang Happy Birthday.
His friends hope that even though he was not conscious he could still hear them when the nurses put the video up to his hospital bed.
Dana Regan is the Director of The 21 and Over Program at the Felician School. It is devoted to special needs adults. She has known Thomas for over a decade.
“He was an avid dancer, loved to dance, loved music, loved singing. He was everybody’s friend. Thomas was a very upbeat, happy go lucky kind of guy, always smiling, always super friendly,” Regan said.
Thomas leaves behind his stepdad and sister who are now dealing with a double loss.
Regan finds peace in believing that the mother and son are together once again.
“I think she knew that he would be happiest with her. I don’t know how he could’ve woken up and feel that devastating loss and then try to go on and do things he always did without her by his side,” Regan said.
The loved ones of Carolyn and Thomas have set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for funeral expenses and medical bills.