Editor’s note: This story is part of a series about Oklahomans who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read the stories of other Oklahomans here. Have you lost a loved one to COVID-19? Help us tell their story.
Shari and Tommy Harrison found each other late in life but had planned to make up for lost time by traveling, riding motorcycles and volunteering together.
Married seven years ago, it was a second chance at love for both after divorce. But the Broken Arrow couple’s plans were cut short when Tommy died of COVID-19 on Jan. 8 after a month-long hospital stay.
He was 60.
“He was robbed of his retirement and our future plans,” Shari said.
Tommy was an Army veteran who volunteered at the Oxley Nature Center at the Tulsa Zoo. He loved pugs and was a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Tommy spent his final days mostly alone in his hospital room on a ventilator.
Shari said he grew anxious and had panic attacks because it was the longest he had been without family.
“He was losing hope because he had never experienced not having his family with him — it was a horrible experience,” Shari said.
“He was my rock and the love of my life. He didn’t deserve this.”
Shari met Tommy on a dating website, which she said had never produced results in the past. Their first date was at a Starbucks. She found Tommy to be a charming man who loved his country and his Honda Gold Wing motorcycle.
Shari and Tommy both never planned to marry again, but after about six years of dating, they decided marriage was the right way to spend their golden years.
The two invited friends and family over for a birthday party but surprised everyone with a backyard wedding ceremony.
“That was such a fun day,” Shari said.
Tommy tested positive for COVID-19 in early December 2020 and was released from the hospital after a few days. But as his oxygen levels worsened, he returned and never came home.
Shari said it was hard to stay in touch with Tommy in the hospital, especially after he was put on a ventilator. The two would use iPads to video chat but it was not always easy to find a nurse to help.
“The (nurses) were very busy and they would only let one in the room, so they weren’t always available,” Shari said.
Tommy left behind his wife, two children and six grandchildren.
In the months since Tommy’s death, Shari has done what she can to share her husband’s story and to remind people of how much COVID-19 has cost in human life.
“All you hear are the numbers but these were actual people who died,” Shari said. “He was a very loving person, a very happy person.
“There was just so much left for him to do.”