Every day, it seemed, something else — or someone — was taken away.

In the early days of the pandemic, it was often repeated that, by the end, we would all know someone killed by the coronavirus. Whether that winds up being true is uncertain, but loss is everywhere — from each of the terrible deaths comprising a staggering toll to lost jobs, canceled rites of passage and our grief for the world as it used to be.

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Rosemarie Gabriele's last words, typed up by her daughter before Gabriele was put on a ventilator. [Courtesy of the Gabriele family]

Rosemarie Gabriele, sick with COVID-19, called her daughter Paula before being put on a ventilator. “Hurry up, Paula, hurry up,” she said, and Paula scrambled to type her mother’s last words. The call lasted 13 minutes. Rosemarie became Pasco County’s first person to die of the disease. Paula took a photo of her monitor to send to family.

— Courtesy of Paula Gabriele, Connecticut

Related: The last days of Rosemarie Gabriele, Pasco County’s first coronavirus victim

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Elizabeth Kirkman's tribute to her late husband, Jim. [Courtesy of Elizabeth Kirkman]

Jim Kirkman was an award-winning salesman, a hospice volunteer and a dedicated churchgoer, said his wife, Elizabeth. When he died on March 9, she said, it was already clear she wouldn’t be able to plan a celebration of life. Their children couldn’t visit to mourn their father. Stuck in her apartment at Freedom Square of Seminole, waiting for meals to be delivered, Elizabeth created this tribute outside her front door. “It tells how our romance started 65 years (ago) and speaks that love never fails, nor does it die,” she said — even as “death has taken a back seat to the virus.”

— Submitted by Elizabeth Kirkman, Seminole

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Albert Tawil sits next to his wife, Judy, in March. After Judy died, Albert, a geriatric physician, went back to work almost immediately — he felt that his patients needed him. [Courtesy of Lisa Tawil]
“My son after hearing track season was canceled.” [Courtesy of Lisa Tawil]

The Tawil family went through different types of loss amid the pandemic. In March, Judy Tawil broke her hip and died 13 days later. Her husband, Albert, was at her bedside in her last days. Then he went back to work: A geriatric physician, “he has never stopped going to the nursing home,” his daughter, Lisa Tawil, said. “He says those are the ones who need him the most.”

Fifteen-year-old Albert Tawil-Brown, Lisa’s son and a freshman at Tampa Preparatory School, had big plans for this track season. State competition was set to take place at the University of Florida, where he hopes to run track someday, and he’d put himself in good position to qualify, said his mother. He held out hope that the state championships would still happen even after his school went to distance learning. When he learned the competition was canceled, he curled up in a chair, dismayed. “It was a huge blow,” Lisa Tawil said.

— Submitted by Lisa Tawil, Tampa

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A ticket for a concert that never happened. [Courtesy of Ruth Eckerd Hall]

On March 9, British blues guitarist John Mayall, 86, postponed his March 11 concert at the Bilheimer Capitol Theatre in Clearwater — one of the first of hundreds of local concerts to be postponed due to travel restrictions and the coronavirus. He later rescheduled for Dec. 16. This ticket, originally slated to be given to a contest winner (hence the $0 face value), still shows the original concert date. It’s a stub for an event that never happened.

— Submitted by Ruth Eckerd Hall

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Someone left this message in front of Schwarzkopf Elementary School. [Matt Baker]

A message, left in mid-April, on the sidewalk in front of Schwarzkopf Elementary School in Lutz.

— Matt Baker, Tampa Bay Times

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Melissa Terzi watched her father's funeral via Zoom. [Courtesy of Melissa Terzi]

When Melissa Terzi searched for memories for her father’s eulogy in April, the physical sensations of her childhood rose to the top: the sound of his sports car pulling into the driveway after a long day of work; the feeling of snuggling beside him as he snoozed on the couch; the smell of his Brut cologne and the faint whiff of Scotch on his breath. But when Michael Paltrowitz, at age 80, died of brain cancer on April 2 in New York City, Terzi and other family members couldn’t be there. They watched via Zoom as he was laid to rest.

— Submitted by Melissa Terzi, St. Petersburg

Related: They couldn’t have a funeral in N.J., so they had one at a St. Petersburg park. Via Facebook.

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Jonathon Kocialski died in a car crash, and his father had to mourn from miles away. [Courtesy of Kathleen Kocialski]

“My husband is disabled due to severe lung disease. The fear of this virus has caused him severe anxiety. He knows he could never survive this virus. To make matters worse, I have to work, and it happens to be in a large doctors’ office. On March 25, we woke up to many missed calls and text messages ... from my husband’s family in Colorado. His son Jon was killed in a car accident. My husband could not go near an airplane or an airport due to his illness. He was not able to pay last respects to his son or be there to comfort Jon’s young sons. He was crushed. So we cried and held each other and stayed home. It was all we could do.”

— Submitted by Kathleen Kocialski, New Port Richey

• • •

All those games that weren't played. [Courtesy of Gary Harrington]

The Tampa Bay Rays schedule — busted.

— Submitted by Gary Harrington, St. Petersburg

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The Surreal


For all the stories in the series, click here.