There are no easy words for this time. No platitudes or Scriptures can replace or heal the loss of a parent, a child, a friend or a mentor.
As of Feb. 23, the world has lost 2,483,456 individuals to the coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard. The United States has lost 502,482 people, and Arkansas has lost 5,363. In the immensity of these statistics, we lose the faces, names and stories of those who are no longer with us. By looking at statistics, we lose the faces, names and stories of those who are no longer with us.
Every human being is more than a number; they are a unique person created by God. Each and every loss shatters a family, leaves behind friendships and has us grasping for memories awash in tears. As grief swallows up the world, we question why.
In creating the digital COVID-19 memorial, we at the Threefold Advocate seek to hold onto the humanity of those that the John Brown University community have lost. COVID-19 has reached into every part of our world, and our campus is not left unscathed.
For those whom illness and death has not touched, the devastating impact of the pandemic can feel distant when we lose sight of our neighbor. And when we lose sight of our neighbor, we lose sight of God.
Our classmates have lost grandparents they wanted to celebrate graduation with someday. Our friends have lost parents. Many of us have had our hearts ripped into pieces across oceans and borders as we cannot grieve with those we love and say our last goodbyes.
Even in the desperate grasp for words, seeking to show compassion for our friend in pain, we fail. The words “I’m sorry for your loss” aren’t enough. Yet, we aren’t called to have the right words. We are asked to sit in the darkness alongside them—making space for grief in all its forms, letting questions hover in the air and waiting for the light to come.
This pain, while swallowing the individual whole, is often invisible to the outsider. A snide remark about wearing masks, or a complaint about change does more than just rip off a Band-Aid on our neighbor’s wound. It pours salt into the stream of burning vinegar flowing into the wound in our neighbor’s side.
And, yes, all of us have lost something in this past year, but we cannot wrap ourselves up in the frustration of lost plans and everyday changes to the point that we cannot see another person’s pain. When we lose sight of our neighbor’s grief, we lose sight of God.
We believe that our faith can mean life or death for the lost. Why do we not see the same for our words and actions? Especially as the world continues to stare death in the face, an indifference or spite toward our neighbor’s pain is beyond cruel. We never know who is listening or reading what we say, and we can never know all the pain that someone is facing.
We may be human when we look out only for ourselves and our group, but we lose the integrity of humanity when we forget that the face of our classmate is the face of Christ. Christianity is not a call for every-man-for-themselves. It is a call to lay down our lives and to provide comfort for others. It is a life of sacrifice and pain.
May we have eyes to see, ears to listen and open hearts to bear the pain of those around us.