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Families in North Carolina cope with pandemic deaths on Dia de los Muertos

For thousands of families, Dia de los Muertos was a reminder of the pain they've suffered in the past two years due to COVID-19.

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Keenan Willard
, WRAL Eastern North Carolina reporter
WILSON, N.C. — For thousands of families, Dia de los Muertos was a reminder of the pain they’ve suffered in the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On this somber holiday, one woman in Wilson said she's turning the loss of her husband into a symbol of her strength.

“For me, it’s been very difficult,” Maria Resendiz said. “I think so for everybody.”

Resendiz said she cooked dinner Tuesday for herself and her three children just down the hall from the family’s ofrenda – the altar where they honored those who’ve passed on.

But the heart of this year’s display was someone Maria never expected to lose so soon -- her husband, Ricardo Resendiz.

“He was always with us,” Maria Resendiz said, “right up to the moment when he got sick.”

Resendiz and her husband came to the United States from Mexico nearly 20 years ago. He worked as a landscaper, supporting the family through the pandemic until he caught the virus himself in March.

Ricardo Resendiz fought for 24 days in the hospital.

“On April 10, he died,” Maria Resendiz said. “He didn’t have the chance to be here with us still.”

“It was the hardest moment of my life, when he left,” she continued.

Hispanics in North Carolina have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, accounting for 18% of cases while making up 11% of the state’s population, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

More than 1,400 of those cases have ended in death, leaving many families facing the same pain as Maria Resendiz.

“We counted on him, because he was the head of the family,” she said. “He paid for everything, including this apartment.”

She works in a cigar factory now, cleaning to pay the bills and keep the roof over her family’s heads.

For a few hours, the glow of the altar in the corner served as a reminder that Tuesday night and every night Ricardo Resendiz would be with them – until she sees him again.

“I have to work, be both father and mother to raise them,” Maria Resendiz said. “Whatever it costs, I have to raise them, and it’s really hard, and it’s really sad, but it’s the reality. There’s no other option.”