The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed many lives and has had a devastating ripple effect on loved ones left behind.
One young teen in Peel Region is experiencing it first hand after losing his mother to the virus on April 17, leaving him an orphan.
“Losing your parent at any age is difficult. Losing both by the age of 13 is just unfathomable,” said Mariam Nouser, the cousin-in-law of Mazen Kamel.
The Grade 7 student was the only child of 46-year-old Dalia Aly, who family say contracted COVID-19 from a friend back in March. Kamel had already lost his father years ago to kidney cancer when he was just five years old.
“Having a relative like Mazen lose both of his parents is heartbreaking and difficult to process for all of us,” said his cousin Omar Mansour.
The teen also contracted COVID-19, but his symptoms were mild. His mother died in the ICU, and while he was able to be at the hospital when it happened, COVID-19 restrictions prevented him from hugging his mother goodbye.
“I vividly remember him saying that he wishes this was a dream and that he would just wake up and his mom be there,” said Nouser. She and her husband Mansour are Kamel’s only immediate family left in Canada. They consider him like a little brother to them, though they describe him as an old soul.
At his mother’s vigil – held virtually – it was the 13-year-old boy who was comforting others.
“He said, ‘My mom would want you to be happy, my mom wants people to smile and doesn’t want people to suffer. And I want that too because my mom wanted that,’” recounted Nouser. She and Mansour described Aly as an incredible cook who was always going out of her way to show her family how much she loved them.
“Her smile was just so bright… she made sure the people she cared about were happy,” said Mansour.
Kamel and his mother were extremely close, the family explaining that he is a true reflection of her.
“Dalia was the kindest woman you’ll ever meet. She didn’t have much, but she would take anything of her own and if someone needed it more than her, she would give it to them,” Nouser said.
Aly had been diagnosed with a painful medical condition called fibromyalgia and was on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) at the time of her death. A campaign has been set up to raise funds in support of Kamel and to make sure he has a secure future and education. For now, the plan is for him to go live with his mother’s twin sister in Italy.
His family here in Canada said they, along with the young teen, want people to know about Aly’s story and to understand the seriousness of the virus.
“When somebody passes away in normal times for expected reasons, you have time to process the loss and say goodbye … we didn’t have any of that,” said Mansour, adding that it’s still hard to believe his cousin didn’t make it to her 50s.
“You see your life growing up with them … then they’re gone way before you expect them to. It’s just so unbelievable… this [third] wave is devastating.”
The family hopes the painful experience they’re going through right now is a lesson to others to cherish their loved ones and to take every precaution necessary to stay safe.