The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
Today I am tying a black ribbon around a post on our front porch to signify to all who pass: Someone who lives here loved someone who died of COVID-19.
In my case it was my father, who died on April 9 after 10 days fighting for breath in a hospital in New York City — nothing and no one familiar around him, none of us there to hold his hand. At the time, this kind of an end was beyond our imagining. It is now a scene that plays daily for thousands of families.
Dad wrote letters to the editor, tutored English at his local library, and worked the polls on Election Day. He was a marvelous illustrator. As a child in wartime Germany, he drew comic strips on the backs of old exams and the flyleaves of any books he could get his hands on. He laughed often.
These are some of the things I wrote to the nurse who sat with Dad as he died. I sent my letter to the nurses’ station at 12A. I never learned the nurse’s name.
Living with COVID and dying from COVID are personal experiences for me and for hundreds of thousands of people in this country alone. A still-growing number of us don’t need the news or a public-health campaign to grasp the relevance of this pandemic to our daily and future lives. Our grief is our cognitive and emotional cue.
But as a microscopic scourge that leaves behind no bombed buildings, no blood on the streets, no crack in the earth — unless the virus enters your circle you have only statistics, talking heads, and video-game imagery of a prickly sphere to guide your comprehension, empathy and actions.
We need to change that. COVID is touching your co-workers, your children’s teachers, your mail carrier. The security guard at your bank. Your delivery driver, your A/C repairman. Your neighbors next door.
To my fellow mourners: Let’s move our unseen grief into the public consciousness and the public conscience. Tie a black ribbon out front.
To those for whom COVID-19 remains an abstraction, an irrelevance, or a hoax: Count the ribbons.
Monica Mueller lives in Tucson.
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