They called him ‘Jaipi’.
Family members said Vijay Khurana was a kind, affectionate and supportive man who was the centre of attention and the star of the show at family gatherings.
They said his smile and laughter brought joy to all those around him, but all he brought to the world abruptly and suddenly ended on Tuesday (Dec. 8) when he died due to complications related to COVID-19.
Despite following all recommendations and doing all the right things since March, it’s believed that someone who unknowingly had the virus visited his son’s home where he and his wife reside.
Bypass surgery in 2017 made Khurana vulnerable to the complications from COVID-19, and in the years following the surgery he occasionally had to rely on an oxygen tank to aid his breathing.
He’s now one of the 587 people in B.C. and more than 13,000 citizens in Canada who have lost their life due to COVID-19.
He was 69 years old.
Khurana came to Abbotsford from India in 1994, following his daughter who arrived in Canada earlier. It was an opportunity for his children and grandchildren to create a better life and take advantage of the education possibilities.
Smiely Khurana, his grandchild and a 2016 Abbotsford Senior Secondary School grad, said it’s been difficult to deal with the loss.
“My grand pop was my biggest supporter, bestest friend, favourite storyteller, go to coffee buddy, greatest listener and his love meant more than everything to me,” she said. “He always said he loved me times a billion every time we spoke. His love was so unconditional and infectious. We were going to virtually celebrate Christmas together, but I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”
Smiely’s younger sister Sonia Khurana, a 2019 ASSS grad, said her grandfather had the ability to light up a room.
“He was the most outgoing person in our whole family,” she said. “The family gatherings seemed to always revolve around him. He was the type of person who made everyone laugh.”
To complicate matters, Sonia and the rest of the Khurana family moved to Ontario in the summer. Smiely, who has a promising future in the local film industry, decided it would be best for her career to remain in B.C.
The pandemic meant family visits were unable to occur, but the sisters believe their uncle and grandparents did the best they could to avoid large social gatherings and followed all the proper protocol to ensure they avoided the virus. They said it’s devastating to realize somehow the virus was brought into their house.
In fact, the family was unaware that Vijay had COVID-19 until a test was performed on him after his death. They assumed his issues were related to his surgery, but it’s now believed that COVID-19 worsened his breathing ability and contributed greatly to his death.
Smiely said it’s unfortunate that more people aren’t taking the pandemic seriously.
“We’d been extra careful all year around our vulnerable grandparents,” she said. “But it took one careless person to change everything. My grandpa lost his life because somebody with COVID-19 outside his immediate bubble came in contact instead of staying home, and he couldn’t survive it. I can’t stress this enough. Stay home. Not seeing your loved ones or friends this Christmas can mean another Christmas to look forward to. He didn’t deserve to go like this. No one does.”
Sonia said this can happen to anyone and it is long overdue for more people to realize the threat the virus poses.
“It has really impacted our family, which we thought it wouldn’t because we were so very careful with people coming near our grandparents,” she said. “But in a lot of communities people aren’t taking this seriously. They think just because they’re young they will survive, but they’re not thinking about the people out there who won’t be able to survive it. Just because you’re not showing symptoms doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want.”
Sonia said that what makes it so heartbreaking is that the death came about just when vaccines are being produced and made available.
“I think a lot of it is patience,” she said. “People think it’s been a year and they are tired of isolating and staying home. I think it’s so important to be patient right now, especially after all the news we’re hearing about a vaccine. It’s a bit of waiting and then things can go back to normal if we stay patient now.”
To add to the frustration is the fact that funerals in B.C. are now limited to just 10 people and gatherings are restricted. The Khurana family is still ironing out plans to honour Vijay.
But it’ll be the memories of ‘Jaipi’ that will live on in both sisters and those who knew him.
Sonia said one moment that sticks out is her grandparents 50th anniversary that occurred in 2019. The Ryerson University Media Production student and her film industry sister filmed and created a video of the event to honour the milestone. She said her grandfather loved the video.
“He just kept watching it over and over,” she said, chuckling. “Anytime we’d come over he would say, ‘let’s watch the video’. He would just not ever get tired of it.”
Smiely said it was his support for her during an uncertain time in her life that she will never forget. She felt nerves telling him that she was dropping out of university a year before completing her degree to begin work in her chosen industry, but he supported her.
“I was so nervous what people in our community, my family and others would think especially because I come from an Indian family and education matters,” she said. “Dropping out was scary, but he told me he loved me and supported me. and that he believes in me. He’s the reason I am where I am and he always believed in me.”
Vijay is survived by his wife of 51 years Prem Khurana and his many friends and family.