As of this moment, 40,265 Americans have died. They loved their families and friends. They had hopes and dreams. They were moms and dads, daughters and sons, grandmas, and grandpas. They meant something to somebody. Their deaths are barely acknowledged by anyone. They exist as statistics.
This is a frightening time we live in. We are in survival mode. Our world has become very small. We cling to our immediate family. Their protection and safety consume our lives. It is hard to think about anything else.
We are terrified when a member of our family is positive or we get the virus. Our nightmare has become a reality. We ride the ups and downs of something we have no control over. Most of the time, all ends well. Sometimes it ends in tragedy, sending a shockwave through the family.
This tragedy is now a reality for thousands of people across the country. They die alone. Nobody is there to say goodbye except the caregiver. They give everything to try and save them. They are the ones that hold their hand after they pass away. Each death marks their soul.
Families are not able to say goodbye. Funerals can’t be held, so their lives are suspended in time, unable to fully grieve the loss of their loved one. There is no closure.
Their deaths it is too painful for the rest of us. It brings reality too close. We can’t look to our leaders. They barely acknowledge all the deaths. They offer no condolences. Not even a “you are in my prayers.” They want a round of applause because their models and statistics predict less loss of life.
The dead are not statistics. They were real people with lives and families just like us. Now their families are suffering. No one is acknowledging that suffering. There are no pictures of them on TV. No list of names like during a war. We are allowed to escape reality.
Sometimes we can’t escape it, the death. We see the refrigerated trucks outside of hospitals to hold the dead. The temporary graves dug on an island in New York City. We quickly turn away or turn it off. The families can’t turn it off. They imagine their loved one in a refrigerated truck, a temporary grave.
The first death from coronavirus in the U.S. was recorded on February 29. In the seven weeks since then, the death count has risen to 40,750. That is 5,821 Americans a week. Imagine a war where this many people were lost in just seven weeks; our devastation and sorrow would be front-page news.
One of the those who died is Jazmond Dixon. She died on March 22. Let me tell you about her. She was 31 and lived in St. Louis. She was the first loss of life in St. Louis. She had just completed a master’s in business administration. She worked at the American Red Cross in the blood bank. According to her biography in the Washington Post, her family said this about her :
“What’s so devastating is, we’re a large, close-knit family who spends an incredible amount of time together. And if Jazmond was to have passed away from ‘normal’ causes, our family would have camped out at the hospital, and no one would have left,” Johnson said. “The fact that this virus robbed us of being there for our cousin at the time she really needed family the most, it really robbed us of closure.”
Her story is one of 40,750 loved ones lost to 40,750 families. It is time to acknowledge them, honor them, tell their stories. It’s the least we can do.
Susan Shannon is a retired nurse who blogs at madness: tales of a retired emergency room nurse.
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