TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — "Everybody has some empty chair now at the at the dinner table," said Tallahassee teenager Maddelena Kaji.
Around Kaji's table, those empty chairs hold a place for her grandparents. The two died of COVID-19 this year.
"I think I've had a great Christmas so far. We did the normal Tallahassee traditions, but it's definitely bittersweet because thinking to ourselves just a year ago, we were there with my grandparents and with everybody having a good time," said Kaji.
Around the world, nearly 1.75 million people have died of COVID-19. As cases climb locally too, that meant no Christmas Day Service for Pastor Greg James' church.
"Believe it or not, we have been in prayer because there have been several of our members who have been impacted by COVID, but within the last 48 hours we have members who are now hospitalized," said Pastor James.
Pastor James says he's seen the grief left behind after COVID. At times, it can hard to find the words to say to a grieving family.
"I was just talking with a young man, the other day who felt like his uncle would have still been living if he had not taken a trip to North Carolina," said James.
In a year full of losses, both Maddelena Kaji and Pastor James says the real meaning of Christmas 2020 is celebrating what's in front of you.
"I'm so thankful that I didn't lose my parents or my sisters. I lost a lot, but I'm so thankful that I still have what I do," said Kaji.