LIBERTY, N.C. — This time of year, we normally come together with family, and friends - all under one roof.
But this year, instead of sharing a meal, and sharing our lives, many of us are separated and isolated because of the pandemic.
While many of us can video chat with loved ones or wait another year to reunite in-person, some families don't have that option. Time has run out. Their fathers, mothers or grandparents passed away this year - victims of the coronavirus.
For those they leave behind, the heartbreak is overwhelming.
As the days get shorter, and weather turns cold, thoughts of family celebrating this season serve as a bright spot for many.
But this year, it's just not the same.
"It feels a little broken," said Melissa Lewis. "There's just a lot that COVID has taken away from so many people. And a lot of people don't realize how serious this still is."
Lewis will hold a much smaller Thanksgiving celebration, almost six months after her grandmother, Nellie Smith, died at a Greensboro nursing home.
Smith had just celebrated a birthday, her 88th, on May 31st. Four days later, she died, after testing positive for COVID-19.
"We didn't fully get to grieve because we never got to tell her goodbye," Lewis said. "We didn't get to talk to her. We weren't there with her. She was alone. And, I think it would've been a little easier if we were able to just be there and hold her hand and tell her it's OK to go."
When it comes to gathering for the holidays, Lewis calls it a Catch-22 - wanting to be with family, and wanting at the same time to stay safe and to keep them safe. She doesn't personally see a problem with larger gatherings - just as long as people understand how crucial it is to do this safely.
"There's a lot of people that I care about right now who are fighting for their life due to COVID," she said. "The holidays just aren’t the same anymore."
This year, she's remembering her grandmother, and praying for a better, brighter future.
"I know it's going to get better. The only thing left to do is go up," Lewis said. "I'm talking about friends, family, as a world… We have to pull together and put everything behind us, and just love one another and get through this together."
Nellie Smith was one of more than 1,900 people living in nursing homes who passed away as a result of COVID-19 in our state.