CLEVELAND — The numbers hit with enormous impact, further shattering our world and stiffening our backs as the figures flash on our television screens.
The numbers of the nationwide dead show how widespread is the hand of COVID-19. The death total is now at 240,000 and growing.
It is difficult to truly get our arms around such huge numbers, but think of it this way: a single death multiplied by that number. Graveside tears times that number.
Now add all in the family and the friends. For every one of the dead, grieving others are left behind. In many thousands of homes, there are empty chairs at the table.
In a matter of months, the coronavirus has changed us. We wrestle with how best to go about our lives in the face of the staggering numbers telling us how many of COVID's victims are no longer here.
Since the pandemic began several months ago, three of my aunts died. Two were diagnosed with COVID-19, both in their 90s, both in a Cleveland area nursing home. My Aunt Pearl, sister to my mother; and Aunt Dorothy, sister to my father. Each was sick with other ailments, but each was also diagnosed with COVID.
My aunts – Pearl, Dorothy, and a third, Bertha – slipped away within weeks of each other. They were last of that generation of family before my generation.
So allow me to put faces behind numbers: In the old family photograph albums are graying images of times past, frozen moments in the life of Aunt Pearl and Aunt Dorothy. This was decades ago when they were young, before COVID stopped their bodies.
Three years ago in her nursing home, we celebrated Aunt Dorothy’s birthday. Her voice is stilled now, but precious video summons it from the past.
So the next time you see the numbers of COVID deaths, reflect beyond the numbers and make the moment a "Turning Point" in this pandemic. See beyond the face value of the number. Each in the number represents a person who loved life, and family, and friends, and co-workers, and neighbors, all of us left grieving.
Turn back that continually gathering storm of COVID diagnoses and deaths. When precious life is taken, it leaves a hole in the lives of those who are left grieving.
Reflect on those who left and think of those of us left behind, remembering family and friends and all we love.