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Family grateful to nurses who told them father died of COVID-19

A family is thanking nurses who were with their father when he died of COVID-19 and made sure his children knew he wasn't alone.

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A family is thanking nurses who were with their father when he died of COVID-19 and made sure his children knew he wasn't alone.

The Johnson family said it was luck that their father, Rene Johnson, got moved to a room at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire, with a window. The five Johnson siblings would gather outside each day to try to be close to their dad.

On Sunday, the nurses posted two signs on the window: "He is at peace." "We are so sorry."

A photo of the signs showing a nurse placing her hand on the window while another nurse formed a heart with her hands is now being shared worldwide.

"I just really want this to be about the nurses," said Kevin Johnson. "They just went beyond."

The Johnson siblings had been keeping vigil in the park for days.

"Every day, we would just try to do a little something different," said Angela Daneault. "Yesterday morning, me and my brother went and had breakfast in the park to try and feel close to our dad."

What the Johnsons didn't know was how much their vigil brightened the spirits of staff members inside, who said they are tired and sad.

"They were kind of famous with our staff," said nurse Lynn Harkins. "Everyone would come in and say, 'Is the family there?' And everyone would go to the window and wave."

"We told him, as we tell all our patients, that they are loved," said ICU nurse Kaitlyn Kerrigan. "We are here for them. We hold their hands and tell them — everything they tell us to tell them, we tell our patients."

The Johnsons are turning from grief to gratitude and plan to keep the vigils going.

"There's people in there that really need somebody," Kevin Johnson said. "I'm going to make signs. We're going to give the food. They're going to see balloons."

When asked if there was anything they needed or anything that people could do to help, the nurses at CMC said they want people to wear masks. They said to do it for them, do it for yourself and do it for those you love.