PROVIDENCE — They died in March 2021, a year into the COVID pandemic. Vaccines were getting out to broader swaths of the public, but had not reached them in Brockton, Mass. Society was reopening, but still they were careful. Somehow Kayne Medeiros, 43, originally from Seekonk, and the man he called “Papa,” his father-in-law, Vincenzo Bitto, 78, came down with the coronavirus in early February.
“They had just started getting the shots out when he got sick, in early February,” Bitto’s wife, Vincenza “Vinnie” Bitto, said. “We didn’t want to go all the way to the stadium. We were waiting for it to get closer to Brockton. And then it was too late.”
They were hospitalized and then, when they got even sicker, put on ventilators. But they did not survive their battles with COVID-19. Bitto was buried on March 9. Connie Bitto Medeiros went from her father’s graveside to her husband’s hospital bedside to say goodbye. Early the next morning, he died. They believe that Kayne waited, just a few hours, so the family wouldn’t have to take on so much in one day.
At Medeiros’s own service a few days later at the Restoration Church in North Providence, the family put together a slideshow of photographs, including one from when they were just hanging out in the back yard in Brockton. It shows Medeiros with his hand on Papa Bitto’s cheek, leaning in close, beaming.
Connie, who’d just lost her husband and her father and was now a single mom to a 4-year-old boy, was sitting in the front row of the church. She couldn’t take her eyes off the photos on the screen as more and more pictures went by, including some from her husband’s childhood. She hadn’t noticed before how much her husband, when he was younger, looked like her son, Santino Vincenzo Medeiros. She noticed it now.
“I just couldn’t stop staring at him,” she said later.
In came the mourners — men in Teamsters Local 251 jackets with tears in their eyes who recalled how Medeiros had gotten his CDL license and a job driving an oil truck. The extended Medeiros family, with roots in the Azores, sharing stories in Portuguese.
Veronica Medeiros, Kayne’s little sister, sat a few seats away from Connie, from time to time sobbing and crying out: “Why?” Nobody in the church, half-empty because of COVID restrictions, could answer. An emergency room nurse, she was preparing for a eulogy she’d been nervous about writing. How could you even put it into words? When it was over, after she’d told Kayne’s story, a story that included a battle with substance use he overcame a decade and a half ago, a reaction unusual in a church service: a round of applause.
“It was surreal, and honestly, I still feel like it’s surreal,” she said later. “It really comes in waves. It’s just like a bad dream.”
The Boston Globe recently spoke to the family about their losses from the pandemic, a year into it. This is what they said. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Connie Bitto Medeiros
He lived life, that’s the best I can say. We met six years ago. On a dating website. I was on it for at least a year. Kayne messaged me, we talked, and on the day we talked on the phone, we met for coffee at a restaurant in Seekonk.
We sat there for like three hours just talking. That was it. He moved in with me two months later. We got engaged five months later. Met in January, married in October. Got pregnant in November. He always wanted to name his son Santino. And Santino’s middle name is Vincenzo, like my dad. He’s 4 now. Santino Vincenzo Medeiros.
With Kayne? It was just love at first sight. He was the kindest soul. He did everything for me. We recently moved in with my parents in August. We wanted to pay off our debt and buy a house. Kayne and (my dad) Vincenzo ended up becoming the best of friends.
It’s sad that they passed away right after each other.
It was really hard for them to find him an ICU bed. The news and everything, “Oh, it’s getting better” — but it’s not. Nurse friends, they say, “We’re exhausted, we keep having surges.”
We took it very seriously. We didn’t celebrate my son’s birthday. We didn’t celebrate Christmas with anyone other than the people we live with.
I just don’t understand how my father and my husband both got it, and both died.
I got to see Kayne at the end when he got really bad. I begged them. My husband never wanted to leave my side. He had to always be with me and my son. I told him I love him so much and I recorded my son saying “I love you daddy, I miss you.” I kept putting it to his ear. “We have so much more to do, and so many plans.” We wanted to grow old in Florida. “Keep fighting. You’re going to come home. We miss you.”
At the hospital — I broke down at the hospital. Because it didn’t look like him. I knew in my heart he was already gone. I just felt like his soul was already gone.
Everyone says, “You’re so strong, you’re so strong.” I’m really not. I have my son I still have to take care of.
I am an ER nurse at Rhode Island Hospital. Rhode Island Hospital is a level-one trauma center. But nothing will ever prepare you to see your loved one like that. My brother was there for 16 days. It’s absolutely a horrendous way to go, to see him on his belly in a medically induced coma.
This is the tail end of the pandemic. He was scared to go to the hospital. He was nervous of COVID. He asked my mom, “Am I going to die?” She said, “No, honey, you’re not going to die, it’s not your time yet.”
I’m holding onto my faith because I know my brother was strong in his faith. But I’m struggling. I’m praying to God. I’m praying to the same God that took my brother. He’s all powerful and all knowing, and he took my brother. I’ve told myself I’m not going to lose my faith.
My brother’s a joy. He should be alive. He shouldn’t have died. I can’t bring him back, but I’ve got to be strong.
This has been a horrific year, and it just sucks. Everything opening, springtime, vaccines are opening up — none of this makes sense. It just doesn’t make sense. We’re so close. Why did my brother have to die?
I do believe in heaven. I believe in God. I believe where he is, there’s no suffering at all. None. We have to tell each other these things or we’re going to be wallowing in our misery.
I worked at Rhode Island Hospital for 33 years. Working for food and nutrition. My daughter works at the ER, as a nurse. After what happened with my son, my daughter, she’s so hurting, she’s so hurting. She said to me, “Mom, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to work no more in the emergency room.”
I am so hurt. My heart is so broken. Because my son shouldn’t be dead, my son should be alive. And I just cannot believe this. I cannot believe how much he suffered, with no need for that.
We just have to learn how to live with the pain, which is not easy. God have mercy. Now the family is broken. We are broken. And how is that child going to be raised without a father? That’s terrible. Very bad. Very bad. But I’m going to be doing everything for Santino.
I cannot accept this, God. This was very unfair. Forty-three years old. Forty-three years old. And his son, 4 years old. This is not right. Something was wrong.
He was a very happy man, very happy, always loved to be with his family. Music, dancing, all the time, that’s how he is, my son, my beautiful son.
I have my heart broken. Never, never going to be normal the way it was, until I see you again, my son.
I get sad when I see things that remind me of him. And it’s everything. The house. The garden. He loved going out in the garden and planting his tomatoes. His fig trees. He got up, had lunch at 11, and out the door he went. In the winter, he had his nap in the afternoon. Now that the sun is out, he would be outside cleaning the leaves, getting things going.
He comes from Italy. We were married almost 50 years in September. He just loved everybody. If his grandson Santino wanted to do his choo choo train, he’d be on the floor.
He loved to play cards. He loved his espresso. Typical Italian.
I have no idea how he got it. We didn’t go out at all. We did what we were supposed to. The both of them, the both of them came down with it. It was like, what the heck is going on?
I made soup for him, but he just didn’t want to eat. Connie would check his oxygen. She said at one point, “Mom, you’ve got to call the ambulance.”
This is just so unreal. It’s so unreal. You watch TV, you see them in the hospital, you don’t know them, you felt bad. When it comes and hits you, it’s like a ton of bricks.
When we met, he didn’t speak any English at all. But we made it through. I speak the dialect. I understand a lot. I make myself known in what I have to say.
I see the pictures. I’m mad at him. because he’s not here. It’s not fair. I tell him. The first night, I was watching TV. My eyes went to my door in my bedroom, and I had a sweat shirt hanging. And I looked and I thought it moved. And I said, oh, yeah yeah yeah. My eyes went back to the TV and it did it again. And I said, Enzo, are you here? You see these things.
I believe that they’re watching us and taking care of us. I have my faith. What are you gonna do?
They let us go in to see him at the hospital. I brought the rosary beads. I rubbed his hand. I could see a little bit of tears in his eyes. So I knew he knew we all were there. And I thank God. But by then I knew, I knew, I knew. I said, “He’s not going to make it.”
They fixed him up so beautifully. I didn’t want to leave him. But I had to. I’m sorry.
He’ll always be here with me. He’ll always be here.