LOS ANGELES – Two weeks before Christmas, Lisa Agredano asked her 15-year-old son, Manny, to open some of the gifts she bought him.
"No, Mom, wait till Christmas," he told her gently. "I want it to be a surprise."
Lisa, a 50-year-old single mom, was insistent. She had bought her only son new clothing repping his favorite football team, the Las Vegas Raiders, and she wanted to watch as he opened it. Manny gave in to his mother's wishes.
That same day, Lisa, my friend, sent me a text message: I'm scared my fever won't break.
She had tested positive for COVID-19 a few days earlier. She didn't want to go to the hospital. I don't want to leave my Manny, she wrote.
At 9:56 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13, my phone rang. "Lisa Agredano," it read. Relief washed over me. She hadn't been responding to messages. Then I heard Manny's voice.
"My mom died last night."
Manny lived in Lawndale, California, with his mother and his grandfather, Manuel, the man he was named after. Five days after losing his mother to the coronavirus, the soft-spoken Lawndale High School sophomore lost his 83-year-old grandfather to it, too.
As a reporter covering the coronavirus in California these last 10 months, I, like so many Americans, had become almost numb to the daily horrors — the number of new cases, the number of new deaths. How do you process that much tragedy? How can you possibly wrap your mind around it?
By May, a hundred thousand Americans dead. By November, a quarter million. By December, 300,000.