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'It's a sweet sorrow' | Triad COVID-19 patient dies surrounded by family after leaving hospital

Leo Staley's family is in mourning days after he was released from the hospital. He died surrounded by his wife and two daughters.

ASHEBORO, N.C. — A Triad family went from joy to heartbreak in a matter of days.

Leo Staley, 81, died at home Thursday after leaving Cone Health's coronavirus hospital.

His daughter, Lynette Garner, told WFMY News 2 that she, her sister and mother were by his side at the time of his death. 

"I am extremely lonely. It's only been a couple of days but the way that the end came, it was a sweet sorrow," his wife, Nancy Staley said.

It was a moment the family wasn't sure they'd get during his week in Cone Health's Green Valley Campus. Doctors told his wife that Staley would not be leaving the hospital.

"Our agreement with each other had been we were not to die alone," Nancy Staley told WFMY News 2  in an interview before his death.

"He was ready to go and it was just a beautiful moment," Lynette Garner said.

Staley was released from Green Valley Tuesday after recovering from coronavirus complications that included internal bleeding. He returned to his Asheboro home that afternoon.

"We thank God for those last 24 and 30 hours that we had, that we could be with him every single second. We did not leave his side and he knew we were there," Garner said.

Credit: Lynette Garner

Staley lived with congestive heart failure and COPD before he started showing COVID-19 symptoms three weeks ago.

His wife, two daughters and a son in law also caught the virus and suffered varying degrees of sickness. Garner said everyone but her husband has tested negative for the virus as of Friday morning.

Garner and her sister Laura Lamb shared the news of Staley's death on social media. The family had asked for prayers and shared updates about the family's battle with the virus.

Many friends and loved ones have shared condolences and messages of support.

"Everyone that knew him, loved him," Garner said.

His family said grieving is the hardest part, made more difficult by the pandemic.

Many friends and loved ones cannot say goodbye to Leo or console the Staleys in person because they fear spreading the virus.

"It's just a very cruel and unusual way that this virus has ripped into the very soul of the family," Garner said.

Their peace is knowing Leo died surrounded by family and not alone in the hospital.

Leo Staley's funeral is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at Back Creek Friends Church in Asheboro. 

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