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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Tubes thru Lips
Needles in Arms
During quarantine, Margie Parker spent a lot of time reading books and writing poetry. “Adieux” was not inspired by a specific person, but more by the sense of loss felt by anyone who knows someone suffering. “It just sort of jumped forth fully formed inside my head,” she said. “Watching the number of deaths climb each day and seeing television news reports of people with COVID lingering in comas for months without families, not being able to touch their hand or say goodbye, hurt my heart."
— Submitted by Margie Parker, 78, Weeki Wachee
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“We had more fun than the law allowed.” — Jack Martin’s obituary.
Jack Martin was placed in a memory care facility last summer, when his wife, Cindy Leigh-Martin, could no longer care for him at home. He got great care, and she tried to see him every day. In March, the governor shut down facilities — no family visits allowed.
“My husband could not communicate via cell phone due to his severe dementia and Alzheimer’s, so staff implemented brief FaceTime calls a couple of times a week, so we could at least see each other on screen and he could hear my voice,” she said.
On April 13, he was sent to the emergency room for extreme gastroenteritis. His wife was allowed a few hours with him in the ER, because he could not communicate and she was his voice. “They made me leave once he was stabilized and moved to another floor, and I was never allowed to see him again.”
His COVID-19 test came back negative, and for two weeks, his wife asked daily to see him. She was told no. When he had feeding tube surgery, she was not allowed to be with him. She begged and cried. She had trouble finding a place for him, denied by hospice and several rehab facilities. One option, a facility in Tampa, already had dozens of COVID cases. She wouldn’t send him there. When she finally found a place, time was running out.
“I am haunted by the fact that I was not allowed to be with him,” she wrote. “I called the hospital and rehab facility several times a day and always asked if I could be with him and was told ‘no,’ asked if he was comatose and was told ‘no’ and asked if he was end of life and was told ‘no.' I had been advised if he was end of life, I would be allowed to be with him. He passed away April 27, 2020 at the rehab facility in isolation and all alone.”
— Submitted by Cindy Leigh-Martin, Tampa
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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
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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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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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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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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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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
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“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
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The Tampa Bay Rays schedule — busted.
— Submitted by Gary Harrington, St. Petersburg