PHOENIX — On a day where family is top of mind - empty seats at the Thanksgiving table are a reminder for those who lost loved ones during the pandemic.
One Valley family lost three relatives this past year – all to COVID-19.
"At least holidays, we should live those like they're the last,” said Valerie Fernandez.
Fernandez vowed to take more pictures, give more hugs and just make more family memories this holiday.
That is because her family has dealt with as much loss as anyone can handle over the past year.
“My uncle (Jaime) single-handedly did Thanksgiving dinner," she said.
Her uncle, 47-year-old Jaime Marquez, died from COVID-19 this past Sunday.
The father of five with two grandkids was known for always making sure the young ones had a smile on their face.
Fernandez said he was always taking a kid to their baseball or soccer games. And on Thanksgiving, she says he was king of the kitchen
"He took his turkey seriously,” said Fernandez.
Jaime wasn’t the only one in the family to succumb to COVID.
Back in July, the Marquez family lost their uncle Javier after his bout with COVID.
The 51-year-old was known to family for staying busy helping others, never turning down an opportunity to participate in aiding someone in need.
The family says his battle with COVID came after he was fully vaccinated.
“He actually did everything he was supposed to do,” said Fernandez.
At the start of this year, weeks before the vaccine was rolled out, the Marquez family lost their grandmother, Juana to COVID at 78-years-old.
The family says this holiday they'll miss her pumpkin and pineapple empanadas and her creative crafting skills.
"She didn't like turkey. Her last Thanksgiving, she really wanted KFC,” recalls Fernandez.
This holiday has more open spots at the table than the Marquez family would like but even after all that loss in just one year - there's still plenty of room for gratitude.
"If I could say one last thing to them, or get a message across to them, I'd really like them to know how grateful I am to each and every one of them,” said Fernandez.
The family explained that when Javier died, it was Jaime who dipped into his savings to pay for funeral expenses.
Now with Jaime’s passing, the family is once again planning another service and looking for the community's help through a GoFundMe page.
There’s also a planned fundraiser where proceeds will go toward Jaime’s memorial this Saturday, November 27.
The family is selling pozole and tacos at a home located at 5528 North 73rd Avenue starting at 9 a.m. in Glendale.