Last updated December 31 at 1pm
It is a story that is usually told in numbers. Every day, health authorities report the latest statistics of COVID-19: the cases, recoveries, deaths. But behind each of Malta's 215 victims (and counting) is a grieving family. As the country begins a national vaccination programme, Times of Malta would like to end 2020 by reflecting on the lives behind the numbers.
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“My mother Ġorġa Zammit was the first COVID-19 victim. She was still an avid reader even at her age but after St Anne's Residence for the elderly was closed it was not possible to hand over books and magazines.
Although her health was deteriorating fast, we wish she did not die all alone and that it was possible to have a decent burial since funerals were not possible. We hope she was unconscious the whole time and did not know she was all alone. It is cruel dying all alone. We would have wanted to be by her side during that time.”
“Grace Bugelli was spunky, sassy, beautiful and fashionable. She loved people and loved a good party.
No-one Grace met stayed a stranger and she was always ready to strike up a conversation. Wherever she went, Grace spread joy and love. Grace joins her youngest daughter, Rachael, in heaven and is sorely missed by two daughters Marvic and Ruth.”
“It was like a horrible dream that my dad Guido Camilleri had to be taken from us suddenly.
He will always be remembered for being so loving, caring and he always carried a smile on his face, no matter what.
These last few months were devastating as we could not go visit him, but when we did, he was always happy to see us, especially when we brought him a shandy and pastizzi, his favourites. For me he was the best dad in the world, and he is going to be missed every single day that passes by. Until we meet again daddy, keep an eye on us from up there.”
“Our dear mother, wife, grandma, great grandma, sister. Greatest wizard of culinary delights, forever vocal for women empowerment, patient and doting grandma, best designer and maker of fine wedding dresses.
“No one held your hand in your final moments. No one heard you when you were in pain. No one was there to allay your fears. Tears have been shed now. An empty void fills our home. A memory etched forever in our hearts.”
Ismael Sammut on his mother Mary Jane Sammut, who died on Christmas eve.
“Dear Nannu Frans (Sultana), 2020 was the year that a deadly virus decided to take you away from us.
Even though you are now resting, we keep you alive through our thoughts and memories we cherished together.
We will always remember your infectious laugh and funny jokes! I love you nannu, rest well and keep on taking care of all the family from heaven!”
“My father Joseph Agius (Żeppi tal-Ħanut) was a strong man just four days before he died from COVID-19.
And yet we couldn’t go visit him and tell him we loved him. He died alone. He deserved so much better, he was a family man who was prepared to help everyone, even helping to feed the needy. We could have had him for Christmas. Instead, I lost a piece of myself.”
“My father Charles was known as Is-Sur Camilleri after 42 years teaching.
He was a keen worker and after his retirement served as a councillor at Santa Venera.
His enthusiasm rubbed off on others, as he used to organise cultural tours. He was loved by hundreds in the community and was loyal to his family. We hope he’s now embraced in God’s grace.”
“A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again.” – Maya Angelou
Sorely missed and never forgotten, Dad. From your loving children, Aldo, Martoine and Mariella and their respective families.
Till we meet again, Dad.
Aldo Farrugia on his father Philip.
“We sent her to a care home to stay safe and ended up getting the virus from there.
"She passed away alone at Mater Dei after spending her whole life surrounded by loved ones. A caring woman, who would also put on red lipstick when meeting people, had to be buried with haste.”
James Spiteri on his grandmother Violet Portelli Vella.
Fr Lino Cardona SJ
"Jovial, unassuming and dedicated, Fr Lino spent his decades as a Jesuit serving in a variety of ways – community treasurer, confessor, spiritual director, rector of St Aloysius College Church and the Jesuit Sanctuary of our Lady of the Wayside.
Perhaps though, he is best remembered as a teacher for many years, not merely of subjects but of character, marking generations of students at St Aloysius College with his kindness and dedication, and inspiring a number of students to enter politics through his contagious love for Malta and his wish to see the country improve. Fr Lino was also totally dedicated to supporting the residents and staff at Dar Tal-Providenza."
Fr Eddie Mercieca SJ
"The gentlest of souls, Fr Eddie spent almost 40 years of his Jesuit life serving in Chile, followed by nine years in Rome from where he visited over 30 countries where he conducted spiritual workshops with inimitable zeal and a profound love for the people he served.
"Even during the years of ill health, his eyes would brighten up and his face shine as he continually spoke of his plans to offer retreats to individuals, and share the vast resource of spiritual material he had written and prepared over his lifetime, to bring people closer to God whom he loved so much.
We will never forget the utter joy he transmitted whenever he related the time when Pope Francis called him to wish him a happy birthday!
And we will never forget the utter joy he transmitted whenever he related the time when Pope Francis called him to wish him a happy birthday! They had lived together in the same seminary in Buenos Aires during their formation, cracking jokes and playing football together."
Fr Robert Wirth SJ
"How can we describe Fr Robbie? Funny, enthusiastic to a fault, thoughtful, maybe even a little eccentric, he loved people, he loved his family, he loved India where he spent over 36 years of his life as a Jesuit missionary, working tirelessly among the poorest, teaching, serving, establishing and conducting invaluable leadership training courses for the holistic formation of young people.
"He’d never miss a birthday of his Jesuit companions, his large family and many friends, calling, sending messages, bringing laughter to every gathering and finding joy in being with others. In a recent short light-hearted interview, Fr Robbie shares a number of recommendations for life – “a spirit of dedication and commitment, adjustment, inculturation, giving up things that you like for other things that are your obligation..'”. And this, he says, leaves him feeling a fulfilled old Jesuit.
Alison Vella on behalf of the Jesuit community.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has hit close to home, as a few days ago we lost our beloved uncle Salvino Degabriele, a Valletta boy through and through.
Salvino was a second father for me and I grew up very close to him especially during my teenage years. He was loved by all and will be sorely missed by all those who knew him.
“Thank you papa for all that you did for so many, as a father, a brother, a doctor, a gentleman, a friend.
"As so many of your clients told us, your willingness to listen, to help, to provide comfort were there for all to see. You gave so much and asked for nothing. You were, are, and forever will be in our hearts and minds."
David Fenech on his father Lawrence.
“Vincent Formosa was 59 years old. He worked for the Office of the President, a loyal and reliable employee who was loved by his colleagues. He was a humble man, always willing to give a helping hand but more importantly he was a really good listener. He was a respectful husband who often returned home with chocolates or sweet desserts for his wife Catherine.
“He loved his three wonderful daughters who are today young strong women. He cherished the company of his sisters and brother and often enjoyed playing cards with them. Uncle Vince use to visit his mother weekly without fail at the home she still resides in.
"He visited my father’s death bed daily and brought us warm dishes in hospital which he home cooked each morning throughout the last weeks before my dad’s passing. He was a strong man who was not scared to show his fragility and his emotions.”
Elaine Micallef on her uncle.
“Our beloved dad (Joseph Bray), you were so vigilant from the first rumours of the virus, especially when it was slowly reaching our island, and ended up secluding yourself at home to avoid getting infected.
"Unfortunately, a fall at home meant you had to be admitted to hospital from where you contracted the virus after a fortnight. To our big loss, no matter how much you fought till the end, it won you over, leaving you the 44th Maltese victim of COVID-19.
“We will always treasure your passion for art, photography, crib making and travelling. Yet, your love for your family and friends, and your infectious smile will always prevail. Dad, we miss you like no words could ever explain, and wish we can hug you and speak to you for the very last time.”
Your son Kenneth and daughter Ingrid.
“Danielle Diacono was a caring, kind and thoughtful person and always ready and willing to offer and help others. She was very sociable and loved bringing people together. She was like a sister to me and her absence is sorely missed.”
Nella Meadows on her friend.
“Loving, gentle nature and kind-hearted, Danielle was warm and affectionate with everyone she met. She touched the lives of many people with her beautiful soul and these precious memories will never fade.” Amber, Alana and Scarlett.
“My father George Agius Pascalidis was a true gentleman, full of life, loving, caring, and with a good sense of humour. COVID-19 snatched him away from us and we could not be next to him while taking his last breath. It is so painful for us as you never get to see him not even before he was buried.”
Le, ma kontx waħdek f'dak il-lejl tat-tluq;
Tissielet bl-aħħar nifs jinxef fuq fommok.
Le, ma kontx minsi f'dak id-dlam mitluq
Bla ebda wens ħanin ta' min iħobbok.
Int ma stajtx tisma', Harry, bħal tqanqil
Ta' ġwienaħ qed jifirxu salm u talb.
Int ma stajtx tifhem, għax il-waqt kien tqil,
Li dak kien mewġ ta' mħabba ġej mill-qalb.
Martek, uliedek, qraba li jgħożżuk,
Hemm kienu miegħek, petali ta' fjura,
Miġbura, id-dmugħ moħbi, iwensuk,
X'ħin l-aħħar nifs inin lejn it-triq żgura.
U jibqa talbna bħal inċens ifuħ,
Jitgħannaq b'ħajr ma' ħajtek u t-tifkira,
Ma' kelmtek u tbisimtek jagħtu r-ruħ
Lil dak li kont u tibqa' b'għożża kbira.
Gorg Peresso’s elegy for his cousin Harry Peresso.
Never forgotten by Josephine, Andrea and his wife Antonella, nephew and niece, Elisa and Nathan, Roberta and Giorgio and his girlfriend Pauline.
“Our father, (Aldo E Azzopardi). A true gentleman, full of love and laughs.
We have so many happy memories.
I still can’t believe you’ve gone and none of us could be with you and hold your hand as you took your last breath."
"My aunt Carmen Vella passed away at age 75. Our dear aunty Nena left us to meet our other loved ones up in heaven.
She was a beautiful soul, a beautiful lady, always thinking of everyone. She loved her family with all her might.
We will all miss her infectious smile and her warm heart. Another angel looking over us in heaven."
Lorna Cassar Mallia
"In just four weeks we lost our dear father Alfred Ebejer aged 72 years and his brother, our uncle Paul Ebejer aged 68 years.
My father was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather. His grandchildren were his joy and pride. He dedicated his life to see his family happy.
It is such a heartbreak for us that we couldn't be with him during his days spent in the hospital. His sudden death was a shock.
My uncle was a vivid, young at heart man. They will be both missed so much by all the family."
Lucienne Falzon Scerri
"On the 10th of November, a day after his 99th birthday, my father, Joseph Borg Bonello, passed away.
To us, his family, he simply faded away since, from the moment he was taken to Mater Dei Hospital from Zammit Clapp Residence, we could neither see him nor speak to him. Our thanks go to the doctor who kept him company and us informed.
We were obliged to organise the funeral within a couple of hours, with no time to inform some of our relatives and his own friends of his death and we could not even bury him in our family grave.
Had these been ‘normal times’ he would have been surrounded by numerous people since he was always active as a member of various voluntary societies and was awarded the Vassallo Prize as an active senior citizen in 2018.
As a father, he instilled in me, my brother Benny and my late brother Fr Manwel, a sense of justice, responsibility and altruism."
Marija Falzon (nee Borg Bonello)
"My mother Maria Galea (41st covid victim) was a resident of Casa Antonia. She was a healthy 96-year-old and had no chronic diseases whatsoever.
We were sure that she would reach the venerable age of 100 like her two other sisters. She had only been a resident for one year. She was a devoted Catholic mother of six, a grandmother of thirteen and a great-grandmother of three. Her life revolved only on her family. The greatest pain for all was the fact that she was denied the presence of her family when she passed and, most of all, denied entrance to the church for her funeral mass celebrated by her son who is a priest."
Myriam Darmanin, daughter
"I last hugged my mum Mary Carmen Vassallo in March and always shuddered to think that what was keeping us apart, would ultimately take her away from us.
We were devastated at the thought that she may have called out for us to hold her hand and comfort her during her final days. Now, the night sky shines brighter with my beautiful mom in heaven. She has joined the stars and all those she has loved and lost. Our pain will pass and we reminisce and celebrate her life through the sweet memories that we have and hold so dearly.
You are not another 'elderly' statistic mum. Covid took you away and not your years. Love you mommy, always and forever. Shine bright like a diamond ❤️"
"My beloved dad, Charlie Scicluna, a caring husband to my mum whom you loved and protected all your life, the best nannu and awesome brother and uncle.
Always remember for your enjoyment of life, your commitment to work and your loyalty to your colleagues, neighbours and friends. At this time of the year, we are deeply missing your karaoke singing, your impromptu lyrics and your delicious cooking. You were always the heart of the party!
We could not hold your hand during your final moments but we were present through our strong emotional bond dad. Do not have enough words to thank all the staff of Mater Dei, ITU 6.
They gave you the best possible care to ease your pain and keep you comfortable. That's my comfort, although we could not stay close to you, you were in good hands. I know how much you loved your work at Mater Dei Hospital and your colleagues at the bio-engineering section, but they loved you back da! In every corner there is a piece of furniture which serves as a remembrance of you. Until we meet again! You will always be my king!"
"Our dear mum Angela Mallia was a loving and caring wife, mother and grandmother. She was a quiet and optimistic person who never grumbled even when in pain and who had great faith in and love for Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint Anthony of Padua.
After two-and-half-months in hospital, she contracted the virus and became the 97th victim of COVID-19 in Malta. Since she had to die alone, we hope she did not suffer and that she was not conscious that we were not near her at the end. Our consolation is that now she is in a better place without pain and suffering and she is receiving the ‘prize’ she worked so hard for her entire life.
Dear mum, thank you for everything and now rest in peace because you deserve it after all you did for us. We love you and miss so much! Forever in our heart, dear mum! Inħobbuk!"
Marisa Mallia and Joanne Mendosa (her daughters)
"My grandpa Ġużi, Joseph Garzia, was perhaps one of the eldest to have fought the virus. He was 97. He survived a war but alas, he did not survive this call.
It’s not about the fact that he left us, it’s about the how. I remember the eve of his passing. I stood behind the glass door at Karin Grech Rehabilitation Hospital looking at him gasping for air on his solitary bed. I stood there hoping he would turn his head and see me. Not that he would have recognised me with the mask and overalls.
Something within me wanted to reassure him he was not alone. The family he always surrounded himself with could not be there for him during the last hours before his passing. He fought it until the very end, just like any other challenge he faced in life. We may have not been there with him in presence, but we only hope that our spirit and prayers embraced him on his final breaths, We carry your memory Nann, forever in our hearts."
"John Saviour Grech: A lover of life with an unparalleled thirst for learning. We dearly miss your youthful presence, impeccable sense of humour and unique storytelling abilities.
Our hearts have been broken by your premature departure but together we toast to a life well-lived and a life well-loved. Forever in our thoughts and hearts. May you rest in so much love.
I lost my father Joseph Schembri to COVID-19. He was 76 and died on December 4, 2020.
"Edmund Cornelius was a kind, loving and caring husband, dad and grandad.
It was hearth-breaking for all the family that we couldn’t be with him during his last days spent in hospital. We will always miss you and treasure our memories together. Always in our hearts."
Our beloved Nanna Mary Portelli was a 93-year old, selfless, humble and caring woman. She was a resident at a home for the past four years where she contracted COVID-19, despite the fact that she was confined to her room.
The separation from nanna since March was a big heartache. Nanna Mary went through the hardships of the war, but she insisted that the current situation was worse than the fears of war because at that time they were all together taking comfort and solace from one another.
Nanna, we wish to be with you and hug you as you deserve. You will surely be missed by many people whose hearts you have touched throughout the years.
Jessica and Jeremy.
Teresa Munro 16-5-1929 – 7-11-1920, aged 91
Taken from us too soon.
My beloved Aunt was the youngest of 10 children. Five boys and five girls.
Auntie lived at Gwardamanġa Hill, in the house that she was born, all her life.
She looked after her mother and three brothers and was an excellent cook. Her homemade ravioli were my absolute favourite closely followed by bragioli.
Auntie welcomed visitors and family with open arms and loved children. Nieces and nephews; great-nieces and nephews and great-great nieces and nephews all visited – some from the UK and the rest from Malta.
In 2016, she fell and broke her hip and was not able to return to her home and moved in to the Boffa Home at Floriana. Early in 2020 she was moved to Dar Pinto Care Home in Qormi.
They had a case of COVID-19 in the home on October 18 and auntie tested positive with no symptoms on November 2. She died in the Good Samaritan Hospital on the 7th. I feel her death was hastened by COVID-19. I feel so sorry that she had no family around her when she died. In normal circumstances one of us would have been with her to the end.
Those of us in the UK are very grateful to my Maltese cousins who were able to visit her regularly especially Tessie, Mark and Raymond as well as my other cousins and their families who live in Malta.
This is the end of an era for myself and my family and all my cousins and their families and we all have very happy memories of time spent with her and all our Uncles and Aunts.
What I have not been able to come to terms with is no church service and no priest at the graveside. My aunt deserved better.
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