(CNN) — Stephanie Rubio and her three children have had their heart broken twice in three weeks.
Stephanie’s husband, Robert, died from Covid-19 complications on January 28 after spending eight days in the hospital.
On Tuesday, the family lost their home, filled with his memories, to a fire while trying to stay warm in Texas.
With winter storms and freezing temperatures creating chaos and confusion across the state this week, thousands of families have been forced to live without power, heat and water, including the Rubio family.
The family lives in Fort Davis, Texas, about 150 miles east of Odessa. They have been without power since Monday around 4 a.m.
To stay warm, Stephanie and her children have been relying on firewood to fuel the fireplace. But by Tuesday afternoon they were almost out. Stephanie and her youngest son, Levi, 15, braved the road conditions and went to pick up firewood at a corner shop.
From the shop’s parking lot, Stephanie said she could see smoke clouds in the distance and pointed them out to Levi, who had just received a phone call from a friend to say that it was their home that had caught fire.
At home, Stephanie’s oldest child, Allison, 22, was taking a nap when Blake,16, alerted her to the growing smoke.
“We rushed up there to our house and it was just covered in smoke already,” Stephanie said. “My daughter ran out with a picture of her dad that we got from the funeral home, with no shoes or anything.”
The fire department has not been able to determine the official cause of the fire yet, according to Stephanie, but they have deemed the home a total loss.
They never got to say goodbye
Stephanie said she and Robert built their home in Fort Davis and filled it with love and fond memories during a 20-year relationship.
Stephanie’s high school-aged kids had to take a Covid-19 test to return to in-person learning in January. That’s when Levi tested positive and stayed home to recover for two weeks. Shortly after Levi’s positive test, Blake and Robert contracted the virus, too.
“We were all home, the kids isolated themselves in their rooms, but when you’re all home together, it’s hard,” Stephanie said. “Robert was the last one to get Covid from our home and he just couldn’t take it…he had the Covid pneumonia part.”
“We always wore a mask, kept hand sanitizer with us. We did everything we were supposed to do,” she said. “It’s just something that happened and we can’t take it back.”
Stephanie took Robert to the hospital on January 19 and staff admitted him, telling her that he’d most likely be kept overnight to monitor his oxygen levels.
“Before I knew it, they were flying him to another hospital in Midland, Texas, and he just had a really bad night and that Thursday he passed,” Stephanie said. “His heart couldn’t take it and he had heart failure.”
Robert was also borderline diabetic, she said.
“He kept telling us, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine,’ but we were worried,” Stephanie said. “The last thing he said was, ‘we got this, we got this,’ and I kept saying, ‘OK, you’ve got this,’ but he just never came back.”
Robert was a huge Dallas Cowboys fan and enjoyed volunteering with youth baseball and basketball.
“He was just a loving person, a wonderful person,” Stephanie said. “The smile on his face…Oh God the smile on his face was just enormous.”
Because Robert was on oxygen, verbal communication proved to be quite difficult for him. In his final days, Stephanie said he had a cough so bad it would nearly take his breath away, so the couple would exchange text messages instead.
“We’re a strong family and we’re doing good,” Stephanie said. “Well, we were doing good and then of course the fire had just happened on Tuesday, and it just broke our heart again. You know, we lost the home that had all of our memories with him in it.”
Picking up the pieces
Thanks to the support from the community and family and friends close by, Stephanie said her family has been pushing forward.
The Rubio family has been staying in a vacant, 3-bedroom apartment that belongs to a community member nearby. Electricity was restored at that residence Wednesday afternoon.
Vanessa Kinkade, Robert’s cousin, created a GoFundMe to help the family take steps to rebuild their lives. On Twitter she said that Robert was someone who “loved everyone fiercely. Especially his wife and children.”
“I’m asking for donations to help this family recover a small amount of what they lost,” she wrote. “Nothing will bring their husband and father back. But we can all make an attempt to put some joy back in their hearts.”
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