NEW YORK - It’s a labor of love.

“After a while it becomes meditative. Especially during this grieving process, it’s like doing these things just allows you to zone out and transport yourself to those times and those memories,” said Michael Russo.

As Russo follows a ravioli recipe handed down five generations — he can’t help but think of the people who are missing this year.

What You Need To Know

  • Rosemary and Anthony Terio were married for 65 years and died from the ccoronavirus five days apart, on March 31 and April 5

  • Their family, who were unable to properly mourn without a funeral, is still processing the loss

  • They're preparing for the first Christmas without Rosie and Tony, by continuing family traditions of making ravioli

“It’s a bit surreal. And a full circle moment to be making them for the first time, without them,” said Russo.

His grandparents Rosemary and Anthony Terio were married for 65 years — and then torn apart by the coronavirus, dying just five days apart, on March 31 and April 5.

The family could not gather for a proper funeral because of COVID restrictions, but the ravioli assembly line is in itself kind of a memorial.

“Food was the love language of Rosemary and Anthony,” said Laura Terio, Rosemary and Anthony’s daughter.

“Being part of that whole assembly line, you felt like you were a part of not just building raviolis. But you were building your relationship with your family,” said Stephen Terio, Rosemary and Anthony’s son.

Christmas usually meant a big celebration at the Terios' home in East Elmhurst. So, this first holiday season without Rosie and Tony — as they’re affectionately called — will be hard.

“That empty place at the table will be our new normal now. And we’re all getting used to it,” said granddaughter Alicia Russo.

It’s a transition tens of thousands of other New Yorkers also are working through this holiday season.

“I know it’s also the story of so many other people — during this scourge that scorched the Earth,” said Stephen. “My parents would want us to be together. And to continue on loving each other, the way they always loved us."

“Being able to keep this family tradition moving forward is helping with the healing very much so,” said Laura.

And through every step of the recipe is a flood of memories. Like one of Tony's favorite jokes.

“The spinach, they actually peel each stem of each leaf by hand off it because it doesn’t allow it to get as soft,” said Alicia. “My grandpa would call himself a stripper when he would do that. Because he was stripping the leaf off, so he would say ‘I’m a stripper over here today!’”

Tears, while rolling dough to Rosie’s favorite song: “Close to You,” by the Carpenters.

And through their collective grief and love —a yearning to maintain their family's bonds and keep the magic of Christmases past — alive.