For the most part, we have moved on from the COVID-19 pandemic. People are still getting infected with the virus, and those who are infected still are expected to act responsibly and to stay home until they are no longer risk infecting others. Indeed, some still need to seek medical treatment, and thankfully, there’s more that doctors can do. And yet, most of us do not wear masks as much as we used to wear them, although there are still settings where it would be wise to wear them. And it is still a good idea to wash our hands frequently, and to give ourselves a COVID test when we have certain symptoms or plan to interact with somebody who still is vulnerable to serious infection. However, thanks to widespread and effective vaccination, COVID-19 has largely vanished from our collective attention.
And yet, the World Health Organization reports that almost 7 million people have died worldwide from COVID-19, over one million in the United States. Many of us know somebody who has died from COVID-19. My guess is that most of us were aware of people dying, whether from COVID or some other cause, during the months of lockdowns in 2020. And while it is understandable that we want to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, I think that it is important to remember those who died during the pandemic, especially those whose lives went uncelebrated because it was not safe for family and friends to gather. I hope that we have learned valuable lessons from their deaths that will help us the next time a deadly and highly contagious disease starts to spread. But beyond lessons learned, as a Pastor, I know how important it is for people to gather when someone they loved has died—to remember together what that person meant in their lives and to acknowledge together the sense of loss.
That’s why at Central Presbyterian Church in Summit, New Jersey, we have created a Remembrance Garden honoring the memory of those who died during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether they died from COVID or from some other cause. We will be dedicating that garden in a public memorial on Sunday, September 10 at 5 pm. It is located on our church’s front lawn, not far off of the public sidewalk, with a bench facing the sidewalk, where we hope folks walking by might for years find a place where they can pause and sit and remember. If you are in the area, I invite you to drop by, but even if you are not, I hope that you can find a place wherever you are to pause and to remember. And I hope that you will find at least one other person—I hope that you will be that person—who will listen to the stories of these precious ones.
–Pastor Don Steele