The number you see in the title is the number of people who died from Covid in my country before this morning. My country is also roughly the size of the state of Maine, and this number also means that for each million people, we lost 2175 souls to the pandemic.
I’m writing this on Good Friday—the Good Friday of the year 2021. At the end of this day, practicing Christians remember what they believe was the darkest night of human history. Jesus Christ died and on that night he was lying in a tomb. But practicing Christians also believe that this darkest night was followed by the brightest dawn: before the sun came up on Easter Sunday, Christ had risen from the dead. And this is essential: the American Jesuit James Martin wrote that “Good Friday makes no sense without Easter Sunday”.
There is no such dawn for these 21,262 souls. Not by Easter Sunday, to be sure. A lot of people don’t even believe that such a dawn will ever come. Practicing Christians do, but even they don’t know the day and the hour. If what Father James says is true, these deaths were meaningless, unnecessary, and for the most part, avoidable.
We’re told that crucifixion is one of the cruelest forms of death. The victim suffocates under the weight of their own body. From what I’ve heard, dying from Covid is also extremely cruel. It is also similar to crucifixion. “The patient had no lungs to speak of”, a witness said in one of the accounts I’ve read. The victims die because their body can’t get oxygen.
We’re told that Jesus was alone on the day of his death. Most of all, his disciples, some of the people he was closest to, deserted him the night before. One of them betrayed him, another denied ever knowing him.
Covid victims also die alone. Quarantine rules mean that their family must stay away—they die in the ‘red zones’ of the hospitals. Most of them die while connected to an invasive respirator, which means that they are put to artificial sleep. But because their body—and their brain—is deprived of oxygen, they lose lucidity or even consciousness way before then. Some of them are able experience, and suffer from, the solitude and hopelessness of their condition—others simply drift away.
On Margaret island (Margitsziget), an island in the Danube in Budapest, there are now twenty thousand stones, each remembering a Covid victim. The initiative comes from a former politician, but it is impressive nevertheless, and also much more than our government did to remember these people. The government, whose members claim to be practicing Christians, only talk about the success of the vaccination process, and say nothing of the victims or the hardships that the healthcare workers and the patients must face.
If there will ever be a dawn from this darkness, we must make sure that these people did not die in vain, and in our little ways, we must do everything to prevent as many deaths as possible. I’m probably one of many millions who keep saying this, but, seeing the multitude of maskless people on the street, to little effect: for now, we must keep our distance and wear our masks (even if we already had our jabs). We may also want to find a way to help those who have difficulties because of the illness or of the lockdowns.
And, once this is over, we must remember that our governments were woefully inadequate in responding to the pandemic—and that most of these deaths could be avoided. Let’s remember this next time we go to vote.
But tonight, we mourn for these souls—along with Jesus if we’re practicing Christians. Tomorrow the work begins to make a dawn for those who still draw breath.