COVID-19 ALERT

Buongiorno Italy!!

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Jasmin woke up to her favorite tune, “Lasciatemi Cantare,” playing on her grandma’s radio in the living room. She wasn’t happy and didn’t enjoy the song as much as she used to when she heard it every morning. She was in a bad mood.

Twelve-year-old Jasmin used to wake up every day to the voice of the radio and the delicious aromas of Fette Biscottate, Cornetto, Ricotta Pancakes, Brioche, Cannoli, Zeppole Donuts, espresso, Cappuccino, and hot chocolate. Grandma would always wake up early and cook the best Italian breakfast ever for her little granddaughter Jasmin, her daughter (Bella, Jasmin’s mom), and her son-in-law (Leonardo, Jasmin’s father).

Jasmin didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. She missed Grandma badly and didn’t know if she was going to see her again. Grandma was in a hospital with COVID-19.

The small family lived in Bellagio, the most beautiful village in Lake Como, in northern Italy. The family-owned a charming little pizza bar in front of the lake, and Jasmin’s grandmother preferred to cook the pizza herself, without help from anyone. Despite being small, the bar was one of the most popular in the village, and a favorite destination for tourists.  Grandma used a special authentic artisanal pizza recipe that had been passed down through several generations.

Jasmin was remarkably close to her grandmother. Whenever she finished school and completed her homework, she would help in the bar. Every Saturday, Grandma took Jasmin to eat chocolate gelato and walk along the greenway of Lake Como. They would walk hand in hand, enjoying each other’s company.

All that changed. Grandma had been in the hospital for the last two weeks, fighting against COVID-19. She was almost 70 years old, and in particularly good health and physical shape. However, this disease offered no mercy.

Jasmin’s family had been quite careful with her grandma ever since the pandemic hit the world, and for almost a year Grandma never went out. Recently, though, Italy had been getting back to normal. Grandma had scheduled an appointment to get the vaccine, but unfortunately, got infected before she could get vaccinated. She had insisted that her family allow her to visit the bar to ensure its readiness to reopen to the public, and that was the only time she had gone outside.

Jasmin and Grandma loved football. They would regularly watch the Series A matches together, every Saturday and Sunday. Their favorite team was Internazionale, and their favorite player was Mario Balotelli. For the big games or the derbies with AC Milan, they would always go to the San Siro stadium to watch, in person.

Jasmin and Grandma had had big plans for Euro 2020. Grandma had promised Jasmin that if Italy reached the finals, they would both go and watch the game at the Duomo di Milano, the most popular piazza in Italy because of its beautiful ambiance and energetic vibes. They prepared their jerseys for the final match a full two months before the tournament began. They had high expectations for the Italian team, and they believed that the players would not let the Italian people down. However, with Italy in the semifinals and Grandma in the hospital, Jasmin was faced with the possibility of having to attend Euro 2020 alone, and just the thought made her sad and lonesome.

After Jasmin got home from school and finished her homework, she prepared to go visit Grandma in the hospital. Since visitors weren’t allowed to go inside the hospital, the nurses permitted them to sit beside the window outside Grandma’s room. They also opened the window partially so Grandma could hear them, in hopes that hearing their voices could help speed her recovery.

Jasmin decided to bring along their radio with her to the hospital. When they arrived, they found the window open, indicating Grandma was waiting for them. Jasmin quickly began to update her grandmother of what was happening.

“How are you, Grandma? I hope you can go home with us soon,” said Jasmin.

“We have returned to school in person. I missed my friends so much, and being back at school is great,” continued Jasmin.

“The bar is going well, and all of the customers ask about you every day.”

“Mom makes hot chocolate for my breakfast, but I miss your hot chocolate, Grandma.”

After Jasmin finished talking, she turned on the radio and listened to it with Grandma. Although there was no response, Jasmin knew that her grandmother heard everything.

Before leaving, Jasmin told Grandma she wished she could listen to Italy’s semifinal match on the radio with her, but they had to leave. The nurse told them that Grandma should relax and not watch the game because that it would exhaust her emotionally. Jasmin prayed to God that Grandma would soon be able to go home with them, and that they could go as planned to watch the final game in Milano.

However, all their big plans for Euro 2020 semi-finals fizzled because of COVID-19. Jasmin ended up watching the semifinals with her mom and dad at home, missing Grandma and praying to God every second that she would be able to join them for the finals.

Italy won the semifinals in a fantastic game! All the people in the village were happy and celebrated the win. Only Jasmin wasn’t happy. She was sad. She missed her grandma. She had cried during the match and after the match finished. Her neighbors and friends called her to go with them to the piazza to celebrate with the other people in the village, but she couldn’t go.  She couldn’t enjoy the win without grandma. She was heartbroken and frustrated with the pandemic and lamented that she longed to have her grandmother home.

The next day, Jasmin’s mom received a call from the hospital, telling her that Grandma’s condition was worse and that she was now in a coma. Jasmin burst into tears when she heard this news. She refused to go to school, and she couldn’t eat anything. Her stomach was in knots.

The family went to the hospital again. This time things were different. The window was closed. Grandma had been transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). They stayed for a while. Even though they couldn’t see her, they needed to be close by. They couldn’t stop their tears from falling. Jasmin felt lost and afraid of what may happen to grandma.

The next day, the hospital called. Grandma had passed away. The family received the news with great sorrow and sadness. They never even had the chance to say goodbye.

“I’m not going to see Grandma ever again, mom,” wailed Jasmin.

“No, we’re not, but we have to be strong love. Grandma would want us to be strong,” said her mom.

“I don’t know how I can go on living without Grandma,” Jasmin sobbed.

“Don’t say that. Don’t think that way. We are all going to die someday, but right now, Grandma wants you to live as full a life as she did.” Jasmin’s mother said, trying to comfort her.

“I didn’t expect to lose Grandma this soon,” Jasmin moaned.

“God knows, honey. Just ask Him for guidance and peace.”

 “Please, God, help me,” Jasmin prayed.

It had been two days since Grandma’s death. There were devastating moments, sad hours, and tremendous heartbreak for Jasmin, her mom and dad. She never thought she would lose her grandma in such a tragic way, and to make matters worse, they didn’t get to see her and didn’t get to say goodbye. There were no funerals or memorial services, and this all made the situation more difficult for the family to bear.

When the news of Grandma’s passing spread through the village, all the people were sad too. Despite the bar being closed for three days, when Jasmin’s family returned to re-open it, they found many floral bouquets and sympathy cards stacked in front it, and many people were gathered there to express their grief.

It was a hard time for Jasmin when they opened the bar for the first time after Grandma’s death. Everything reminded her of Grandma. In the bar, Grandma used to make everything from scratch, checked everyone’s work, and made sure the bar operated like clockwork. Every detail in the bar reminded them of Grandma.

“I can’t stay here, Mom,” said Jasmin with tears streaming down her face.

” Me neither honey, and I’m tired too,” said Mom.

They closed the bar and went home. When they arrived home, Jasmin’s dad told them that a nurse from the hospital had brought over a letter from Grandma. The nurse had told him that Grandma had asked that she deliver it to them if she died. 

Her dad opened the envelope eagerly. It read,

My lovely family,

If you are reading this letter, I have passed away, but your lives must continue. Please don’t be sad because we are going to meet again. I’ll be waiting for all of you in heaven.

This is life. It has sadness and happiness, health and sickness, and death. If you are sad now, know that it will pass and there will be happiness and joy again, soon.

My sweet son-in-law Leonardo, you have been like a son to me, and will always be my son. You are a wonderful husband to my daughter and a terrific father to my granddaughter. I want you to continue taking care of my lovely family, and I want you to know that you have always had a special place in my heart.

My lovely daughter, your father left us early and I go to join him now in paradise. Ever since he left us, you have been my soul, my eyes, my breath; you are my pizza, my spaghetti al dente, and my tiramisu. I know my absence will not be easy for you, but you are strong, and you have a lovely daughter who is growing in grace. You must continue holding Jasmin’s hands firmly and leading her in the way you have been raised to trust God and be good to others. Honey, there is a paper in the bar in the purple decorated jar on the right shelf. That paper holds our family’s secrets: the special pizza recipe that I inherited from our ancestors and details about our family heritage and the bar. Treasure these gifts and pass them on to Jasmin when the time comes.

Jasmin, this is the hardest part for me to write because you are the only one that I’m not prepared to leave. I’m scared that I will take a part of you with me. If you want me to be happy in paradise, please be happy, too. Live your life with joy. Go to Lake Como. Think of me while enjoying your chocolate gelato.  I hope I’ve taught you that life should be enjoyed.  That’s the message I hope I’ve left with you. You are the future of our family. It’s your time to live your life well. God will be your guide. Know in your heart that I will be cheering loudly when the Italian team wins Euro 2020. That will be a time for great celebration and joyfulness, my lovely girl. Go out and enjoy!

Jasmin was sad when the day of the finals game arrived. As she put on her jersey, she looked at Grandma’s jersey where it hung and said excitedly, “We’re going to win, Grandma! The players will raise the cup and spread happiness throughout Italy. They will wipe away our tears. They will bring joy to everyone who has suffered in the past year, and restful peace to those who’ve passed away. The cup is on its way to Rome, Grandma!”

After a hard-fought game, Italy did win the Euro 2020 championship!  The cup came back home to Rome. Italy, the bride of Europe, was back to blossom and bloom!  The Monalisa smiled! 

Jasmin was super happy when Italy gifted the cup to every soul lost to the COVID-19, to every family that has suffered, and everyone affected by the pandemic!

Ciao, sorrow! Buongiorno Naples, Milan, Turin, and Palermo. It’s a new day Venice, Bologna, Florence, Bari, and Sienna.  It’s a beautiful day in the whole world! It’s a time for fair play and camaraderie! And it’s time for a chocolate gelato!

Maha Gabir

Hi, I am a journalist, a girl from Sudan who has found a new home in America. Through my writing, I want to touch the hearts of the readers and most of all connect with kids.

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