CLEVELAND — How do you sum up someones life in 240 characters?
“Everyone always talked about her laugh and her smile and her humor,” said Jackie Luke.
“She was very smart, artistic,” said Melanie Thomas.
“He just had a gentle soul,” said Rose Volpe.
Robert Volpe was a husband, a dad, a grandfather. An immigrant and a pharmacist at Parma Hospital at 40 years. On February 12, 2021 — he died at 71 years old, after contracting COVID-19.
“It was like, we’re in the middle of life and he was just plucked right out of it,” said Rose, his wife of 48 years. “He was my whole world.”
“At the end of the day, you lose your best friend,” said Tommy Thomas.
Patricia Ann Thomas was his high school sweetheart, one of the first female draftsmen at Timken in Canton. Patti Ann died on January 15, 2022, vaccinated and isolated for the better part of two years.
“Every number is a life that was cut short,” said her daughter, Melanie.
So many of us have become numb to the numbers.
As of today, more than 961,000 COVID-related deaths have been recorded in the United States. More than 37,000 lives lost in Ohio alone.
Patty Stybel was more than a statistic. She was finally in remission from cancer, remarried, and loving life before getting sick.
“She was just crying, saying she wanted more time with her grandbabies. That’s all she wanted,” remembers her daughter, Jackie Luke.
Patty died from COVID on January 20, 2021.
Grandmothers, grandfathers. Sons, daughters. Mothers, fathers. Aunts, uncles.
It’s been hard to grieve losses to the pandemic while we are still all dealing with the pandemic.
But on Twitter — you’ll find a sort of digital memorial — 240 characters about a life we have lost.
“If their family just heard the words, and couldn’t see the pictures or read the name, they would know it was their loved one,” said Alex Goldstein. He created the Faces of COVID account two years ago, never imagining the thousands of followers and thousands of lost lives it would honor.
Social media can sometimes be so negative, it makes our hearts hurt. But here — among strangers— you’ll find kindness, compassion, and caring.
Ignore the toxicity.
“They’re just the loudest and angriest, which gives them the biggest microphone. The vast majority of people are good and they care,” Goldstein said.
And that compassion matters more than you might ever know.
Because even though nearly a million American lives have been lost to COVID-19, the ones remaining still feel alone.
“And now it’s left this scar on our lives that’ll never go away,” Tommy said.
“People talk about getting back to normal,” Melanie added. “For a lot of families - there’s no true normal because somebody is going to be missing because of this horrible virus.”
Visit @FacesofCOVID on Twitter here.