Much of David W. Nagy’s obituary, which ran in his local paper in Jefferson on July 30, recounted his painful death from the novel coronavirus at age 79 and named his surviving family members. But midway down, the tone shifted to offer a pointed message for President Trump and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
“Family members believe David’s death was needless,” his wife, Stacey Nagy, wrote. “They blame his death and the deaths of all the other innocent people, on Trump, Abbott and all the politicians who did not take this pandemic seriously and were more concerned with their popularity and votes than lives.”
Stacey also scolded people who don’t wear masks, describing them in the obituary as “ignorant, self centered and selfish people” who ignore medical professionals and instead believe that “their ‘right’ not to wear a mask was more important than killing innocent people.”
As coronavirus cases keep climbing and some states have been slow to implement mask orders, Nagy said she felt compelled to use her husband’s final message to push for change. Then it went viral. Pictures of the obituary, which isn’t online, have been shared thousands of times on Twitter and Facebook.
“I was angry at the situation and the way people are talking and treating the pandemic, the way people act like this is nothing,” Stacey, 72, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s because of their carelessness, and because of our politicians not getting control of this thing is why so many people are dying. I was just very, very angry. That’s why I wrote it and I meant everything I said in it.”
Obituaries with political messages have been on the rise during the pandemic. In July, the daughter of a man who died of covid-19 penned a blistering obituary in the Arizona Republic, writing that her father’s death was “due to the carelessness of politicians who continue to jeopardize the health of brown bodies.” In an interview with The Post, the daughter accused Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) of having “blood on his hands.”
An obituary in the Citizen-Times in Asheville, N.C., for Sandra Shuler Thomas in July encouraged mourners to use her death as motivation to vote in the coming presidential election. “In lieu of flowers, think of Mrs. Thomas while casting your vote to remove President Trump from office,” it said.
Stacey and David had been married for 20 years. The couple lived in California until a few years ago, when David retired and they sought a more affordable lifestyle in northeast Texas. When the pandemic started spreading throughout the country, Stacey said she became increasingly nervous for David, who she said had a bad heart, high blood pressure and diabetes. “I didn’t want him to get it because I was afraid it might kill him,” she said.
But in late March, after falls, David was taken to a hospital for treatment and eventually to a nursing home for recovery. At the time Jefferson had only three coronavirus cases, Stacey said. When it came to decide if it was safer to bring David home or keep him in the nursing home, she and David’s son decided he would be safer away from home. Stacey was worried she might bring home the virus after a trip to the grocery store.
The separation was hard on the couple since the nursing home forbade visitors. Every week, Stacey went up to his window and tried to talk with her husband through the thick glass.
“When it was time to go, we’d put our hands up to the glass together and kiss on the glass,” Stacey said.
Hopefulness soon turned to dread when David started feeling ill in July. He tested positive for the virus — and so did 6 other patients.
“Here I thought I was doing the right thing keeping him safe by keeping him there and he ends up getting it,” Stacey said. “It was devastating to me, and to say I was angry is putting it mildly. And so that’s why I blame all these other people because the disease did not have to get out control like it is.”
David deteriorated quickly. Doctors tried every treatment, Stacey said, including remdesivir and plasma. But he spent the last two weeks of his life on a ventilator. When his kidneys started failing, the doctor suggested Stacey go to the hospital to see him one last time.
Stacey spent her final moments with David behind another glass window. But this time David was unconscious, unable to reach out and perform their ritual kiss goodbye. When most of the hospital staff were gone, a nurse told her she could crack open the door and speak to her husband.
“I told him I loved him and kept begging him to fight,” Stacey said. “I thought if he fought hard enough he could overcome it. I kept telling him ‘You have to fight so you can come home.’ ”
She also told him to hang on one more day, since three of his five children would be arriving the following morning.
“As bad of shape that he was in, it was as if he held out until they came to see him,” Stacey said.
An hour after they visited on July 22, David died.
Feeling helpless, Stacey approached her husband’s obituary as a chance to speak out about how she felt her country had failed her family.
The response to the obit, which ran in the Jefferson Jimplecute, was nothing she ever expected. She said she hopes her message will, at the very least, inspire more people to wear masks.
“Dave did everything he was supposed to do, but you did not,” Stacey wrote in the obituary. “Shame on all of you, and may Karma find you all!”
The grief has been particularly paralyzing for Stacey, who has no family and few friends in Jefferson. There are also the constant reminders that people in her town aren’t taking the coronavirus seriously, despite the virus’s heavy toll in Texas, where more than 442,000 have tested positive and more than 7,000 have died.
An errand at a hardware store on Monday left Stacey enraged. Despite a statewide order in Texas to wear masks, no one, including the store clerks, was wearing one. And a trip to the sheriff’s office to report the issue was fruitless and infuriating, she said. A sergeant brushed off her concern saying there was nothing she could do about it.
“I said, ‘Well there is a mandate from the governor.’ So she said, ‘So call him,’ ” Stacey said. “She stood there not wearing a mask and several deputies in the background there were also not wearing masks.”
David was patriotic but never very political, Stacey said. He’d often get annoyed at her for being so outspoken about politics and expressing anger and frustration with the government. But she thinks he would have liked what she did with his obituary.
“I really believe that he would be proud of me for sticking up for him and that I’m not taking this lying down,” she said.