FARGO — Lupe Rodriguez, a 47-year-old father of six and grandfather to six more, died on Sunday, Nov. 22, while waiting for a lung transplant.
Rodriguez died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago where he had been waiting to healthy enough for a double lung transplant since September.
Days away from being on the transplant list, Rodriguez developed internal bleeding and had to wait.
Days away from his second chance, his health declined again.
The third chance never came. His body, torn apart by COVID-19 since August, wasn't strong enough for a double lung transplant and a kidney transplant.
"He said that wasn't a way to live, stuck in a hospital bed in a hospital room - so he made the decision for us to let him go," said Maria C-Rodriguez, Lupe's ex-wife and lifelong friend, "He spent his last day being showered with love."
On Thanksgiving, his family is celebrating his legacy and feeling his loss.
"It's odd, there is a weird cloud of silence just kind of hovering over us," said C-Rodriguez.
His six kids all made it to his side before he passed, and extended family pre-recorded videos to send.
"I just wish that you were closer, so we can all be there and actually see you there and just hold your hand one last time, give you a hug and just share a memory or two," said Lupe's cousin, Gabe Zamudio, in a video sent to Rodriguez.
His daughter, Amanda Rodriguez, was greatful to be able to be at his side.
"Because of COVID there are a lot of people that don't get to be there with their loved ones and just have them not be scared as their time comes," she said.
The family says it was the support from their community, who raised thousands of dollars for the family, that helped Amanda and her siblings be at their father's side.
"When your community can get behind you. When you can have community that is just built on not everybody even knowing you complete strangers - reaching out, praying for us, giving us their prayers," said C-Rodriguez.
Grateful, they say, beyond words.
And today, they continue to celebrate their father's life.
"His legacy, his children and his grandchildren, what he instilled in them is going to live on, so he can never truly be forgotten," said C-Rodriguez.
"I'm very blessed to have him as my dad," said Amanda Rodriguez.
The family is planning a memorial service in early December.