May 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren opens up about brother's death from coronavirus

Elizabeth Warren with her husband, Bruce Mann, in March.

Elizabeth Warren with her husband, Bruce Mann, in March. Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren opened up to The Atlantic in a piece published Sunday about her brother Don Reed Herring, who died in April at age 86 after testing positive for the coronavirus.

What she's saying: "I just kept imagining what’s happening to him. Is he afraid? Is he cold? I kept thinking about whether he was cold. There’s no one there to talk to him while he waits for the doctor. There’s no one there to be with him while he receives the news."

  • "More than 60,000 families across this country are going through the same thing right now," Warren said. "It’s something none of us were prepared for. It’s always hard to lose someone you love."
  • "But to lose someone when you have to wonder: What were their last days like? Were they afraid? Were they cold? Were they lonely? That is a kind of grief that is new to all of us."

Background: Warren said Herring had been hospitalized with pneumonia in February and was nearing recovery when someone in the facility tested positive for the coronavirus.

  • "He wanted to go home after he’d been hospitalized and his doctor said, 'No, I want you to just go to a rehab and just get some of your strength back.'"
  • "And then he got sick, and then he died, by himself. That’s the hard part — really hard part. It’s hard to process things like this because everything is happening at a distance. And human beings — we’re not set up for that. We’re wired to be with each other. It makes it hard."

The big picture: "I lost three very important people in my life many years ago in what felt like a short period of time: my mom, my daddy, and my Aunt Bee. Each of them died differently," the senator said.

  • "My mother, very suddenly and unexpectedly. My daddy, lingering cancer. I held his hand as he died. With my mother, I had been there on the day that she died, in the night. My Aunt Bee got sick and then couldn’t recover."
  • "But I was with them. And I was with my brothers and my cousins and my kids. And we shared memories; we grieved together."
  • Warren could only talk to her two other brothers over the phone about Herring's death, but it's "not the same," she said. "You need to touch people. We have to hug; we have to be with each other."
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