A Burnaby woman is begging British Columbians to stay home for the holidays, so others don’t go through the same heartbreak as her family.

Smiely Khurana’s 69-year-old grandfather Vijay, affectionately nicknamed Jaipi, died this week of COVID-19.

“I feel like my heart was just taken out of my body and shattered, because he was my best friend,” she told Global News on Sunday.

“I don’t think words can explain how much I miss my grandpa.”

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Khurana’s family had taken extra precautions to protect their grandfather, who was particularly vulnerable because of a heart surgery several years ago and sometimes relied on oxygen.

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He and his wife lived in Abbotsford, one of the province’s COVID-19 hotspots, and were staying home at all times with no visitors allowed inside.

COVID-19 family tragedy: Burnaby family loses mother and father on same day

COVID-19 family tragedy: Burnaby family loses mother and father on same day

Khurana’s uncle lived with the couple and was their only direct contact to the outside. Family members had also been keeping their distance from one another, she said.

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“We’re not sure what happened,” Khurana said. “We’d been taking all the right steps.”

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But Khurana said somehow COVID-19 circulating in the community broke through their defences.

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“Unexpectedly somebody with COVID came in contact with them. We don’t know who it is,” she said.

“We don’t want anyone else to lose a family member because of this, because of careless actions.”

Khurana’s grandmother and uncle have also tested positive, though now appear to be on the mend.

But because of the pandemic, the family has been forced to grieve alone, with video chat as their only lifeline to one another.

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They are unsure when or if they will be able to have a funeral.

With a COVID-19 vaccine now slowly being rolled out, she’s urging people to be patient and respect the restrictions for a little longer.

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If that means missing a holiday gathering with family, she said it’s a price worth paying.

“Not celebrating Christmas together this year could mean another Christmas together. That’s something I’ll never get back with my grandpa,” she said.

“It’s one Christmas, it’s one season. If you miss it and stay home you could save an innocent life. And then you have another Christmas to look forward to.”

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She’s also hoping her family’s story will help break through the “COVID fatigue” people are feeling, by putting a human face on the daily drip of coronavirus statistics.

“It’s not just another number, number of cases or numbers of deaths,” she said.

“These are people, these are innocent people, these are families we are talking about. We need to stop becoming numb to these numbers.”

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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