For several months, I’ve awoken every morning, and looked at this map. I remember when not every state had COVID-19, I remember when New York started spiking, I remember when we started our stay-at-home time some two months ago.
I was aware that we were coming closer to the milestone of 100,000 deaths during this pandemic, and I thought about all I’d read about the Spanish Flu when I was in graduate school and wrote a short story about a dancer and her young soldier who went off to war and never came home, felled by the influenza that ravaged the world in 1918.
But how would I choose to depict our losses in our pandemic?
I’d seen death quilts, with little coffins neatly stitched, tucked away in their little graveyard or around the edges of quilt. Or would I want to depict them as Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae did, in his poem Flanders Fields?
But this past Sunday morning, I saw this:
I read the article online, scrolling through the humanizing choice that this paper had made, to give a person’s name and a salient, interesting fact about them from their published obituary.
At first it was just numbing, then I noticed this: a quilter. I began to look for other quilters.
I found several.
And on one page, I found not only a quilter, but a “collector of people, laughter and good stories.” It made me wonder: what one line would I want people to remember about me? I found several intriguing qualities, and I reflected briefly on that person, especially the one who was “Faithful in corresponding through cards and handwritten notes.” A woman after my own heart.
I loved Patricia Yanni’s quality: “Wasn’t afraid to try new things.” So often we look to people’s achievements, that they were this important person, or grandmother to twenty-five, or CEO of a Big Corporation, but wouldn’t you rather be known as someone who wasn’t afraid to try new things? I would.
I’d like to be known as someone who gets things done.
Someone who had a life-long passion for learning.
I circled the second one (in red) because now this was in my hometown, a hospital where I had gone for a surgery several years ago. Rosa could have been someone who cleaned my room, made my bed. I will think this week on all those lives that have been taken too soon.
I will remember the quilters.
24 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Our Nation’s Milestone”
Wonderful words. Thank you for sharing
Oh Elizabeth, that is so sad! I cannot imagine what it is like there, a number of such magnitude and my heart breaks for those who loved them. Stay strong, stay well and as my favourite singer Mary Chapin Carpenter says, stay mighty.
Mary has been such a comfort! Such a calm presence in a chaotic time. I look forward to seeing her in person again someday.
I noticed the many quilters, too. The Times created a moving tribute what moved so many of us readers. Thanks for sharing.
You’ve paid a lovely tribute to humankind (I had not seen this in the news), noting the good that can be found in every person, and what a loss we’ve suffered. Thank you for sharing.
I had not cried, yet, until now,
Oh my heart! Such a moving and poignant view of such a life-altering time. Thank you for sharing.
It took 4 full pages of the NYTimes to list those 1000 names. It would have been a 400 page NYTimes to include everyone who has died during this pandemic. It is heartbreaking.
I too wonder what words and sentiments my family will choose to describe me. I know quilts or quilting will be at the top of the list. I am sadden to think how many more individuals will suffer.
Alzheimer’s disease stole the last 14 years of my mom’s life but we still celebrate her legacy almost daily. The reminders are everywhere and that is what, I think, is important. Gone but not forgotten is everyone’s wish. James 4:14 “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
Such poignant words – made me tear up. Thank you for lifting up these losses. We will never know how the rest of their lives would have played out, but we can mourn them. Having a friend who (barely) survived the virus, and is now dealing with the aftermath, I have a greater sense of the tragedy this is. Appreciate your words so much.
Thank you Elizabeth for putting it in a perspective that all can relate too.
Oh, the angels are crying and Jesus looks on with tearful eyes.
Incredibly moving reading through those names, I shed a few tears. I often wonder what words will be used to describe me when I am gone. I hope you and yours are keeping well.
It breaks my heart to read this and watch it unfold. So many unnecessary deaths. I feel a degree of survivor ‘s guilt: here in Australia we have lost 102 people. Why so few? Our leaders set aside political differences and acted together for the good of the country and the people united behind them. Good luck USA
What a wonderful column. I live 10 miles from New York City and the horror of what happened here is always present. The New York Times reminded me of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. Putting names to statistics always makes a difference. Thank you. It makes me think on how I would like to be remembered
The Times chose such a tender way to memorialize this tragedy, and I love your identification with traits highlighted by some of the victims. Seeing ourselves as part of this tragedy shows our humanity.
Oh what a moving post – your highlighted people. Like you I wake up in the morning and check the NYT, and that map is always there. The morning I saw the cover with all the names, I gasped, and then started reading. Real people, not just statistics. When you think about all their loved ones missing them, and the trauma surrounding many of them dying alone…. it is just so beyond sad.
Real names of real people always changes the perspective, doesn’t it?
I appreciate your comments on this, as I appreciate the New York Times doing this piece to make it real. I just hope we can mobilize enough sane people to stop some of the current senseless loss, and now violence, too.