A Connecticut man who died following a coronavirus diagnosis was give last rites by his pastor over the phone with his family listening in from quarantine.
Cathie Pike told CNN that her husband, Bill Pike, “led a life of intellectual fascination of the world.” Calling her departed husband “simply amazing,” she said he had the most beautiful last rites thanks to modern communication.
“It was a like a tapestry or quilt of our affections for him,” she said.
The delivery of last rites was made possible after a nurse at Norwalk Hospital agreed to assist. The nurse gathered the Rev. Peter Walsh of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in New Canaan on the phone and then connected to Pike’s wife and three children to the call from quarantine.
The nurse held the phone to Bill Pike’s ear as Walsh delivered last rites, which he described as “the most beautiful litany of prayer.” The pastor then “told him I loved him” and hung up so his family could say their goodbyes.
Bill Pike passed away about 10 minutes later. Walsh said it was the first time he ever delivered last rites over the phone.
“We see joy in his 91 full years,” Cathie Pike said. “We worry so much for the other people who are getting the virus and simply having to be in their homes.”
‘This is not a tragedy’
The couple has two sons and a daughter. Along with Cathie Pike, all three are in quarantine.
Cathie Pike and her son, Daniel Pike, spoke to CNN from Cathie Pike’s home, where the two are in at least their 11th day of quarantine.
“We just thought he had pneumonia,” Daniel Pike said. “Nobody, nobody thought he had this.”
“Our take on it is tragedy happens every day around the world without coronavirus,” he said, and while it’s a personal devastation “this is not a tragedy.”
“We’re more focused on 91 amazing years,” Daniel Pike said.
Daniel Pike flew in from Austin, Texas, when his father first became ill. He said his brother, sister – who also came in from out of town – and mother were fortunate enough to be by their father’s bedside when he was first admitted to the hospital 14 days ago.
“It helped that we all rushed there and were there,” Daniel Pike said, adding that in the early days of his father’s illness, “we thought he was going home.”
His father fell ill about three to four weeks ago and when he was admitted to the hospital, Daniel Pike said “it was a different world,” a nod to the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic.
Daniel Pike said his father was sitting up in his hospital bed and watching television. But a week later, he was sedated and on a ventilator.
The staff at Norwalk Hospital was fantastic, he said, adding that when “the history of the pandemic is written,” first responders will be remembered for “fighting for people’s lives.”
‘An old school gentleman’
Walsh described his parishioner as the best of “old-school gentleman,” an “iconic” man with “incredible character.”
Bill Pike treated everyone the same, from the person who painted his house to the state governor who he knew, Walsh said. A spokesman for Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont confirmed the two were friendly.
Pike was born in Fort Collins, Colorado. Accepted into the US Naval Academy, he served in the Korean War. Returning home, he attended Harvard Business School and then entered a career in finance.
He eventually ended up at J.P. Morgan & Company, where he served as chairman of credit policy and had a 30-year career.
Walsh said Bill Pike began feeling ill at a time “before we were awakened to Covid-19.”
“One thing lead to another,” Walsh said, and Bill Pike was hospitalized some days before the diagnosis of Covid-19 was made.
Last rites during a pandemic
Walsh said he and his fellow ministers put together a plan on what to do with last rites as the concerns grew over the coronavirus, adding that, unfortunately, “clearly we were headed toward that.”
Walsh said that while the effects of the virus are so devastating, there is something incredibly beautiful coming from this pandemic.
Community leaders, local governments, nonprofits, organizations and even grocery stores and the like are working together to serve the people of the community
People are doing amazing things to give of themselves to others, Walsh said.
Bill Pike will be buried in Colorado where other family members are buried. His family suggested a service would be held for him when the pandemic subsides.