COVID-19 memoir helps Fort Atkinson man find ‘closure’ in wife’s death

As a new book highlights, each life lost during the pandemic is more than just a number— but a neighbor, friend, or for a Fort Atkinson man, a loving wife.
Updated: May. 19, 2022 at 10:00 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As a new book highlights, each life lost during the pandemic is more than just a number— but a neighbor, friend, or in the case of a Fort Atkinson man, a loving wife.

The CDC reported this month, after more than two years into the pandemic, a million Americans have died from coronavirus. In Wisconsin, that number is roughly 13 thousand.

That includes David Stedman’s wife Cheryl.

NBC15 first met David in December 2020, when Cheryl was fighting coronavirus in the ICU. She died later that month.

“It’s been a lot of lonely nights,” David said. “Just kind of numb, if you will.”

Since her death, he has been turning the page.

“I thought it might help give a little closure too by putting thoughts onto paper and sharing her life, her legacy and memories,” he said.

While David doesn’t call himself a writer, he is one of 19 contributing authors in Voices-19: Their Legacies Live on.

“Their common denominator is they lost a loved one to COVID,” Brenda Cortez, the book’s publisher, said. Cortez is from Franklin in Milwaukee County and tapped people around the country, and as far the U.K., to write about their journeys through life and loss.

“I think [it] was healing for all of them,” she said. “Writing is therapeutic.”

During the writing process, David said he re-discovered Cheryl.

He found details about her life from her favorite book, a national park passport. By counting the stamps inside it, David learned she visited 182 parks over her lifetime.

“From a simple trip around Lake Superior to exploring the Mediterranean on the high seas, we made memories together in many places,” he wrote in his chapter, highlighting travel as one of their shared hobbies.

Sometimes, their journeys kept them closer to home.

“No Brewers game was complete without us joining in on the singing of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball’ game during the seventh inning stretch,” he wrote. “Each rendition immediately made it into Cheryl’s Facebook page for all of our friends to enjoy so they could feel as though they were at the game with us.”

David is now getting back to being on the go, and while some nights may still feel lonely, he wrote, “Not a day goes by that I don’t talk to her.”

“This really helped, though, knowing that thoughts were put on paper helped me to relive our lives together... knowing that there’s a permanent record now of her life,” he said.

Voices-19 is now available for purchase here.

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