DETROIT (WXYZ) — Mary Gonzales was the backbone of her family.
The 57-year-old Detroit woman was married with four children and nine grandchildren. And if you been around Southwest Detroit, you may even know Mary from her flea market sales on the corner of Livernois and Vernor Highway.
But in late October, Mary began feeling ill and by early November, one of her daughters was urging her to go to the hospital.
"I went over there every single day," China Hocking said. "I said you have to go to hospital. Finally, she went in the beginning of November."
Mary, a diabetic, was hospitalized for a few days and diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia. But Mary wouldn't stay.
Mary was worried about China's younger sister, 31-year-old Chantell Hocking. Chantell had special needs and she had also been infected with COVID-19.
"I went over there and I was upset that she had checked herself out of the hospital," China said. "I was, like, you know, you need to go back."
Mary eventually went back to the hospital and it wasn't long before doctors asked her family to encourage her to agree to go on a ventilator. Mary refused but then realized it was necessary if she had any chance to survive.
Mary called her eldest daughter before she was intubated.
"She's like, 'China, I don't know what's going to happen.' I said, 'Mom whatever happens, happens. I love you.'And she's like, 'Take care of everything.' And that was the last time I talked to her," China said as she wiped away tears.
Mary died a short time later.
"It's horrible. It's my mom. My only mom," China said. "I have nobody to call anymore."
Last week Wednesday, Mary's loved ones gathered for her funeral and then rushed to see Chantell who was hospitalized and her condition getting worse.
Seven minutes after they got to Chantell in the hospital, she died.
"Your sister waited for you guys to get here," China said one of the nurses told them.
"My daughter's been crying every night. She doesn't want to lose anybody else," China said. "You think about it everyday. What you could have done. What we should have done."
Neither Mary or her daughter Chantell were vaccinated. Mary didn't trust the vaccine.
China herself had to be vaccinated because of a job — a job she has since lost.
"I thought for sure I was going to get it (COVID-19) because people with the vaccine sometimes still get it," China said, adding that one of her children had the virus.
"I'm a mother. I have to hold my kids. They're coughing in my face at the doctor's and I haven't gotten it. I haven't felt any symptoms," she said.
China wishes she had talked her mom into getting the vaccine for herself and her sister.
"I've been so busy. I just wish I would have made more time," she said.
Dr. John Carethers from Michigan Medicine said, "Even one dose can offer some protection."
Carethers joining healthcare workers across the country, urging people to get vaccinated as we approach the holidays.
"We want you to be careful. If you're gathering with your family during this holiday season, you should ask your family, for instance, if they've been vaccinated and if they haven't they should wear a mask as our first line of protection."
China and her family are now feeling the financial devastation of COVID-19 because they barely had enough money for her mother's funeral and now her sister's funeral is on hold as they try to raise money to pay for it.
The family has reached out to obtain funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for funerals related to COVID-19, but the program does not help with upfront costs. The FEMA fund only reimburses people and a representative from the federal agency said reimbursements can take 90 days or longer once the paperwork has been received.
China has started a fundraiser for anyone who would like to help as loved ones, including China's dad, continue to grieve.
"He's not doing good. He breaks down every time I talk to him. It's a lot for him," she said. "He was with my mom for 44 years."