Two years ago, after becoming sick with a virus that led to pneumonia, my 71-year-old father died unexpectedly of a blood clot at NYU’s hospital. My brothers and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, and on the day of my father’s death in March—one of those balmy days when the pivot from winter to spring sings along your skin—I found myself mourning not just his death, but the fact that he had been alone when he died, without ceremony, without goodbyes, without family or friends or his beloved book collection around him. He died without any of the bulwarks against meaninglessness that we spend our lives carefully knitting into being.
Recently, I’ve heard from many people about how hard it is to have a loved one in the hospital right now (whether for COVID-19 or another medical problem), and to be unable to squeeze their hand, hug them, whisper what may be last words. In one sense, I know how they feel. But in another sense, I have no clue, since my father did not die during a pandemic. As the U.S. death count from COVID-19 reached 100,000, I thought about how different it is to mourn a single death and to mourn a death in the middle of a mass trauma—to mourn amid so much death.
[Read: All the things we have to mourn now]
That number—100,000 dead from the coronavirus—is hard to grasp. For those who have lost someone, the pandemic’s scope is not just a statistic; within the abstraction lies an intimately life-changing event. For the rest of us, it is a fact we must try to wrestle into perspective. One hundred thousand people is nearly the population of the city I now live in; it is a neighborhood’s worth of people in Brooklyn, my longtime home; it is perhaps 10 times the total number of people most of us will cross paths with in our entire lives. It is graveyard upon graveyard upon graveyard. It is mass burials at Hart Island, bodies stacked in refrigerated trucks outside hospitals and nursing homes. It is PTSD for the nurses and doctors in the hardest-hit areas. Mostly, it is the shocking echo that follows the loss of even one person: zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. A lament: O, O, O, O, O.
After my mother died at the age of 55, in 2008, I wrote a …read more
Source:: The Atlantic – Best of