With the pandemic still headlining every news website and television broadcast, COVID-19 is often on my mind, whether I want it to be there or not. It plasters my Facebook feed and lurks inside Instagram posts. It creeps into the majority of conversations I have with family and friends. It has shaped the way I now live, the way I now interact with the world and with other people. And with news of COVID-19 comes news of death.
It’s so easy to look at the numbers that pepper COVID-19-related news articles. It’s so easy to look at the lines of zeroes that turn 100 into 100,000 and feel distantly devastated without grasping what death actually means: the souls gone, the people changed by loss.
When a Beloved Teacher of mine passed away at the end of April, we didn’t know if it was COVID-19 that whisked her into the next world or not. But that didn’t matter. I suddenly understood why Mom picks fights with people who come too close, unmasked, in the grocery store. I suddenly felt pure, unbridled rage at everyone I saw, out and about, without masks or gloves, gathered in groups and talking and laughing as if everything were normal. I resented these people for being able to act like a pandemic wasn’t ravaging the world, for not having to carry the weight of grief like stones in their stomachs, and more selfishly, for prolonging the spread of the virus and therefore delaying my return to normal life.
I still hold these emotions inside a nook in my lungs, but they have ceased to be all-consuming. Yet, since Beloved Teacher’s death, I feel absence falling around me like rain. And with this renewed awareness of absence comes the renewed awareness that it’s just me and Mom. Sitting across from each other at the dinner table one night, I looked at the chair between us, and I wondered how this whole experience would be different if Dad were still alive. What words my parents would share between themselves, hidden from my earshot. What a third person in the house would mean for where I could spread out my schoolwork since The College shifted to online learning. What insights a third perspective on this whole situation would provide.
It’s hard to conclude a post about death. Somehow, something so final is hard to stop talking about, to find a way to conclude. Perhaps this is because of the way loss lingers, the way grief never quite disappears once someone is gone forever. So I’ll finish with a question: How has the pandemic changed (or reaffirmed) your relationship with death (or other forms of loss)? Leave a comment below, and let’s have a conversation.
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