By all accounts, Tommy Macias was excited to have his family living closer to him.
According to Macias’ niece, Danielle Lopez, the family is in the process of moving to the Wildomar and Lake Elsinore area from Mission Viejo.
“We’re moving, we’re moving in the next two weeks,” she said. “My parents already have their house, my sisters and I are in escrow, and (Tommy) was so excited to have us just down the street from him.”
Heartbreakingly, before the family was to be reunited, Macias was diagnosed with COVID-19 on June 18 and passed away on June 21.
In a haunting post that he shared on Facebook at the time of his diagnosis, he shared the news.
“Some of you know, but most don’t. I (expletive) up and went out a couple of weeks ago and I contracted the coronavirus,” the post read. “Monday I tested for it and it was confirmed on Thursday. Because of my stupidity, I put my mom and sisters and my family’s health in jeopardy. This has been a very painful experience.
“This is no joke. If you have to go out wear a mask and practice social distancing. Don’t be a (expletive) idiot like me. Thank you to all my friends that have brought me food, and to everyone who has been there for me. Hopefully, with God’s help, I’ll be able to survive this.”
By Sunday, June 21, Macias, 51, was dead.
“When we first got the news, we didn’t even know how to feel and it’s still, especially for me, and for all of us, it just doesn’t feel real,” Lopez said. “My parents brought his trucks to their house to get them off of his street where he lived so that we can keep an eye on them. When we turned the street to go to their house, I see them there and I just immediately think, ‘Oh, he’s just inside, you know, joking and laughing.’ And then I remember that he’s not. It just feels so surreal.”
Lopez said that her uncle had taken the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously in the months leading up to his diagnosis and death.
“He wore masks,” she said. “He wasn’t really going out anywhere, which is why, when everything started becoming more lenient and he thought it was okay to go out immediately, went to spend time with his friends because he thought it was okay. But before that he was only going out when he absolutely needed to, he wore his mask religiously and he was taking all the precautions that he could.”
Lopez is referring to the birthday party that Macias attended. In the days after the party, she said he received a call from someone who was also at the party and had tested positive for the virus.
She said he had already begun to feel bad, but chalked it up to complications from diabetes. But just in case, he went in to get tested.
He got the news on Thursday and passed away two days later just hours after he went to the hospital.
“I knew since he was having such a hard time breathing, I didn’t want to reach out to him because I didn’t want it to make it difficult for him,” Lopez said. “Because I knew he was having such a hard time. My mom, his sister, and my aunt both spoke with him multiple times while he was in the hospital. Myself and my other sisters, none of us got a chance to speak with him.”
The shock of losing an uncle, a brother, and son, hasn’t quite hit the family. Lopez said the family is coping day by day.
“They’re handling it as best as they can,” she said. “It just really hasn’t fully hit us yet that … he’s just … he’s gone.”
Lopez was the one who updated friends and family about Macias’ condition leading up to the day of his death. She was the one who posted on Facebook that her uncle had died.
The news spread throughout the community and with the friends that knew the guy nicknamed “Big Sexy.”
A GoFundMe account set up to help the family with funeral and medical bills was started and raised more than $14,000, well over the goal of $10,000. More than 155 donors have contributed to the fund.
“I think everybody who was friends with him would say the same thing, that he was just the best person that you could have in your life,” Lopez said. “He can make you laugh when you just didn’t want to, at all. You could fight with him, you could laugh with him, you could argue with him and you knew that he would never take anything personally. He’d just come right back and be like, ‘Yeah, yeah, we’re fine.’ I’m sure you saw from his face, but he was a big guy and to anybody, he might’ve looked scary or intimidating, but he was just a giant teddy bear and he just loved everybody.
“He was just always there for everybody. No matter what you needed, he would just drop everything to help out his family or his friends.”
Lopez said Macias lived in the Lake Elsinore area for at least 20 years, as long as she could remember.
The family will have a viewing at Miller-Jones Mortuary in Sun City on Friday, July 10. The family will hold a private viewing service from 3:30 to 4 p.m. and friends are invited starting at 4 p.m.
In her post, Lopez made clear that “masks will be required and everyone is asked to observe social distancing rules. Only 25 people will be allowed in at a time.”
Lopez said her entire family has been adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing rules, choosing to stay home instead of going out. She said it has been difficult to read and listen to people arguing about whether or not the public should be wearing masks when in public.
“We’ve been very strict about going out this whole time,” she said. “Only a few of us in my house go out anywhere for groceries only, and we come straight home and we absolutely wear a mask every single time. And I think that it is very important. All of us think that it’s very important that everybody continues to wear a mask.
“You know, people who argue saying that they’re incapable of breathing properly through it. You can breathe perfectly fine. It’s to protect other people from you and it should be common sense.
“You don’t want to go around infecting and killing people. How can anybody have that on their conscience? All you have to do is wear a mask and you can prevent that.”
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.