OTTAWA -- A pandemic story of life and death holds a sacred place in an Ottawa church.

“Covid hit home here,” said Father Alex Michalopoulos, the priest at Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church on Prince of Wales Drive.

“Our chanter in our church, very close to us, Andreas Andreadis, we lost him to Covid.”

The chanter and Father Alex were both battling the aggressive virus about a year ago. Father Alex would survive.  Andreas, who was just 39-years-old, would not.

“He was chanter here for quite a few years.  A beautiful, beautiful voice, very happy person, a good soul. When he was hit with Covid that was also very sad for us because of the human being that he was, to lose someone like that,” said Father Alex.

Father Alex spent 12 days in Ottawa hospital at the General campus.  He recalls the unrelenting pain of the virus.

“It was very severe.  I really thought that I wasn’t going to make it. I had an extreme headache and I thought that my head was going to open in the back. It was like chiseling my head with a hammer.”

He would persevere.  The frontline workers at the Ottawa Hospital were his lifeline. Father Alex says he’ll be forever in their debt.

“Each and every one of them touched my heart in different ways but all those ways were ways of love, compassion, understanding and caring. “

And while Father Alex survived, it was in hospital that he would learn of his friend’s tragic passing.

“I had a very hard time finding out that Andreas, such a wonderful young man, didn’t make it.” he said.

Covid-19 took a grim toll on many others in our region.   In Ottawa’s long-term-care homes, there were 284 deaths.  In its retirement homes, there we are another 56 deaths.

Back at his church, Father Alex prays for his friend and chanter, and for all those who have felt the anguish of loss.  And he prays for the promise of a better future.

“If we count our blessings, our quality health care and health care workers, if we respect our law makers and each other, we’re going to survive.”