For Teresa Ciappa, home was other people — and for the people in her life, Teresa Ciappa was home. Teresa hemmed pants, crocheted booties, and decorated wedding cakes for anyone who asked, and many who didn’t. To her five grandchildren, whose teddy bears she lovingly patched up, the sunny Italian emigrant was “Dr. Nonni.” Among her family and friends, Teresa was the one who kept in touch, even from across an ocean, the one who never forgot a birthday or anniversary.

When she was hospitalized with Covid-19 in late 2020, Teresa’s tight-knit network watched her decline week after week through a virtual portal. “She would tell us, ‘I want to come home. I miss everybody,’” Michelle Ciappa, her only daughter, told STAT. “As soon as we hung up, we just fell apart.”

The Ciappas were only allowed at Teresa’s bedside on one occasion, for her last breath. Michelle, who is 45 and lives in Columbus, Ohio, said she wonders whether her mother would have survived Covid-19 if her many loved ones had been able to visit her. “She was alone in a room. That’s the opposite of who she was,” Michelle said. “Just to be there, to give her any comfort, maybe the outcome would’ve been different.”


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