By Juli McDonald

FITCHBURG (CBS) – The emptiness of Father’s Day – overwhelming for those without their dads; and especially gut wrenching this year, for grieving families whose fathers were taken by Covid-19.

“He was everything. Everything that a good dad should be, he was,” said Katie McGuirk Schultz of Fitchburg. “We couldn’t be there when he passed. We couldn’t hold his hand. I struggle with that today.”

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Mike McGuirk had been living in an Alzheimer’s care facility when he passed in April. There were no visits allowed then, though his family had been missing the real Mike much longer.

Katie and Mike McGuirk (Family photo)

“It was probably a few years ago when he stopped remembering who we were to him but his heart always knew who we were,” his daughter recalled.

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Now the McGuirks’ hearts have found comfort and peace, in a garden at the Wellesley facility that so compassionately cared for their dad. Each stone is for a treasured life lost this year.

“These people in these homes, they’re people too. They mean something to someone. They’re not just a number. You could feel when you went in (to the Newton-Wellesley Center for Alzheimer’s Care), the love they had for their patients,” she said.

After years of watching parts of him fade away, Mike is Mike again. They feel him with their family, and know everything makes sense.

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“I like to think that now he remembers all of it,” Katie said. “That’s what helps us get through is knowing now, he remembers everything.”

Juli McDonald