KENTUCKY -- Sisters Jessica Cheatham and Jama Allen plan to do everything they can to preserve for their kids the family's Christmas traditions -- even as they mourn the crushing loss of their mom, dad and grandfather to COVID-19.
The festivities would start each year with their mom, Lisa Cheatham, 58, setting out a plate-bending buffet with just about every breakfast food you can think of, the sisters said.
Then they would open presents, watch festive movies (Christmas Vacation and The Grinch are family favorites) and play card games into the evening.
Their dad, Mark, 61, would have his video camera ready to capture special moments.
Now the holiday will never be the same, the sisters said, after their parents and their grandfather died within a four-week period.
Mark and Lisa Cheatham were married for 40 years and died just days apart in a Louisville, Kentucky, hospital -- Mark on December 11 and Lisa on December 15, the sisters told CNN. They were buried together after a joint funeral service.
They were being treated on separate floors, but the sisters convinced hospital staff to let their mom be in the ICU with her dad the day before he died.
"We watched her literally say goodbye to my dad," Allen said. "You talk about one of the most heart-wrenching moments in your entire life is watching your parents go through that."
The sisters had both recovered from COVID-19, so they were able to stay with their mom until she died.
Their grandfather, Charles Herbert Tucker, had died on November 22, two days after his 76th birthday.
Cheatham and Allen said their parents were active and loved to travel before the pandemic and were in pretty good health until they started showing symptoms the week before Thanksgiving.
They said their parents had been very careful and always wore masks and gloves when they had to leave the house.
Their mom had done some online Christmas shopping in the hospital, so they've been wrapping presents for the grandkids and other family and friends.
"This is the last stuff we'll ever get (from them) for Christmas," Allen said.
They urged other families to follow health officials' advice and cancel this year's Christmas gatherings.
"I would much rather have missed one Christmas with my family then have to go the rest of my life, never having Christmas with my family again," Cheatham said. "It's worth the sacrifice, to just stay home and stay safe and focus on planning for the next few years, because we won't, we won't get that opportunity."
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