Shocking…that doesn’t seem to fit

Heartbreaking…that may be better, but doesn’t quite get there

500,000

That’s the number of COVID deaths we have reached in the United States. In one of the wealthiest, most medically sophisticated countries in the world, over half a million people have died from a virus they knew little to nothing about this time last year.

Grief, pain, agony, anger at systems and institutions that failed us and behaviors that went against the common good are all fair emotions at this moment. No one can be sure how long it will take for us to fully process what has happened over the last year.

While the number grabs our attention, like any large number of lives lost for any reason, what really brings it home for me is to think of the ripple effect of loss. Every person who died of COVID-19 was a relative, friend, co-worker, whatever connections you can think of, to others. Some have lived most of their lives and others with many days ahead of them before COVID-19. Each has left behind numerous folks who are left to grapple with grief and reflect upon the fragile nature of life.

Through the years, I’ve observed that most don’t really grapple with the meaning of death until we are forced to do so. It’s fair, I mean why do we want to think about the end of life before it is absolutely necessary. Even then, some don’t want to really think about it. However, due to COVID-19, there are far too many who have to do just that, grapple with the death of a loved one while also lamenting all the ways we could have done better. The collective grief of a nation may never be greater than it is right now. As we weep and lament, God weeps and laments with us.

500,000…a heartbreaking number. That’s the best word I can find, and it’s not close to adequate. However, it doesn’t begin to fully capture the number of us whose hearts are broken at this moment. Every life is more than a number.

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