PALMDALE, Calif. - Thanksgiving is a holiday where people look forward to spending time with family, but the pandemic is causing the holiday to look and feel much different for thousands of families across the country.
In Palmdale, 19-year-old, Juan Jose Martinez, who is raising his four siblings, describes the difficulty of spending their first holiday without their mother, Brenda Lopez, 43, after she passed away from COVID-19 in August.
"Two days ago was our mother's birthday and then today is Thanksgiving, so it's just not the same anymore. It's pretty difficult. Some people wouldn't know because they haven't gone through it and I'd hate for another family to go through what we went through and especially with the cases rising, I just hope people really take it seriously," said Martinez.
Martinez said his mother enjoyed Thanksgiving in the past and would always prepare a good meal for the family.
"It was just different. No one was in the kitchen early in the morning how she was," he said.
Martinez's little brother, Ramiro Rodriguez, 7, also described the difference.
"It was quiet [in the house] all night and all morning," said Rodriguez.
Martinez said people in the community donated to their family to make sure they could enjoy a good meal.
"We're grateful for it because me cooking the turkey by myself would have been kind of difficult because it's my first year doing it, but a lot of people pitched in to help and we're grateful for that," said Martinez.
Martinez said he misses his mom and wanted to make the holiday special for his young siblings. He's also saving up money to get gifts for his siblings on Christmas and eventually move.
"I actually have some people that have gotten in contact with me and are helping us with the Christmas tree and stockings," said Martinez.
Ramiro said he wanted his mother to be around for Thanksgiving, but believes she is an "angel."
"I really miss her and I want her to be here. I'm thankful that my mom's an angel and she's still watching us," said Ramiro.
A GoFundMe page has been launched to help the grieving family. You can click here for more information.