TORONTO -- On the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 becoming a pandemic, families across Canada are reflecting on the loved ones they have lost.

On March 9, 2020, B.C.'s top provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that an elderly man who lived at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver had died after contracting the novel coronavirus.

The death triggered what would become a nationwide cascade of virus-related deaths over the next year.

Ten days after Canada's first fatality, 94-year-old Isabelle Mikhail took her final breath in a room on the second floor of the same long-term care facility.

Her daughter, May Mikhail, told CTV National News that she played classical music for her mother as she died.

"Her very favourite piece was 'Ave Maria.' She was very Catholic and very devoted, so I had that in the background as she was passing," Mikhail said.

Mikhail said it was comforting for her mother, despite the chaos that had taken over long-term care homes in the early days of the pandemic.

"We pitched in and started delivering meals, because a lot of staff didn't show up and so there was a crisis within the home," Mikhail explained.

Mikhail acknowledges it has been a "hard year" -- even more so when she considers the circumstances under which her mother died.

"Long-term care in Canada has been chronically understaffed and underfunded. It's still an issue and honestly that's what we need to change," Mikhaidl said.

She says Canada has "failed as a nation" by letting COVID-19 ravage those who live and work in assisted-living facilities.

Mikhail, who works as a bereavement counsellor, is now advocating for change in long-term care homes as a way of healing from her loss.

"I know what it's like to die alone and not have anyone to have hold your hand and I was determined not to let that happen to my mom," she said.

As of Thursday evening, Canada's COVID-19 death toll sits at more than 22,300, with the virus proving to be deadliest for the elderly.

Of the deaths the Public Health Agency of Canada has complete data for, 96 per cent have occurred in people age 60 and up, with those older than 80 accounting for nearly 70 per cent.

In Ontario, 26-year-old Floyd Ambersley wasn't able to say goodbye to his mother.

"I always told my mom I loved her, but it's when they're gone… I didn't get to say it in her final moments," Ambersley said.

His mother Maureen was 57 and worked as a nurse for 16 years. She died this past January after contracting the virus in a long-term care home, where she worked up to 15 hours a day during the height of the pandemic.

"I don't think people understand how much these people break their back trying to really keep up," Ambersley said.

Ambersley is trying to "stay strong" and move forward, but he says he still misses his mother's presence.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has robbed the lives of loved ones, it has also taken away the dignity of a personal goodbye.

Peter Lewis' mom, Joan, died in New Brunswick around the same time as Ambersley's mother.

"Mom was admitted to a COVID unit, she was in a COVID bed and she died in a COVID unit," Lewis said.

Despite having the virus, Lewis said he had to fight to have his mother’s death counted as a coronavirus death.

"The attending doctor that signed her death certificate had signed it as a cancer death which really upset the family," Lewis said.

He added that this hit his disabled brother, Troy, especially hard.

Lewis explained that it would have been their mother's 80th birthday this past Saturday. He said when Troy was visiting him last week, he could only think about getting his mom a present for the occasion.

"He looked at me and he said 'Pete, we got to get mom a birthday gift,' so he doesn't really understand where she's at," Lewis said.

On top of losing his mother, Lewis also lost two sisters in the past year. While those deaths were not related to COVID-19, he says they reinforced the grief.

Once the ground thaws, Lewis said he plans to bury his mother's ashes next to his sisters.

"We do have a plot for mom and it's a plot beside my sisters Kelley and Sandara and hopefully they can all take off into eternity together," he said.