Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Families celebrate first Thanksgiving without loved ones lost to COVID

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BATON ROUGE - As COVID cases trend downward and holiday gatherings make a return, there might be an empty seat at some dinner tables.

Many families are still grappling with the heartbreaking loss of relatives from the virus. Pandemic restrictions and other factors prevented memorial services from being held, which is why Thom Holley's family made Thanksgiving day an alternative.

Holley passed away from the virus on Aug. 28, just a day before Hurricane Ida struck south Louisiana. His family was never able to hold a funeral as a result of the devastation from the storm.

"So we went from the hospital to hurricane preparation and no electricity. So I knew instantly we were going to do a memorial service, but it just had to be Thanksgiving. This is our day," said Judy Holley, Thom's widow.

Holley's family gathered at their home in Baton Rouge to celebrate his life on his favorite holiday. They continued his annual tradition of "burning the bird" which involved pouring a flaming hot liquid over a baked turkey. 

Countless families are experiencing the same thing on Thanksgiving day, which is why Judy had one last piece of advice.

"Take it day by day, step by step. That's all you can do. Being surrounded with family and friends is the best way we can remember him." 


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