How we mourn the victims of Covid

LONDON – Piece by piece, the Covid-19 sanctuary was born on a hilltop in the town of Bedworth in central England. This process is considered a metaphor for a human’s life. Like bones fused over time, it grew taller as the memorial’s creators spent months piecing together intricate pieces of wood into a skeleton structure that finally stood tall. 65 feet.

Then they burned them all down.

There are always memorials to the loss of life due to catastrophic events, such as thousands of memorials dedicated to world wars, the September 11 attacks, the Holocaust.

But the Covid-19 pandemic, now in its third year, presents a unique challenge for grieving families. It is not an isolated event, in one location. Because of the death toll of more than six million people worldwide keep increasingThe community and family are trying to preserve and build the memorial at the same time the tragedy is unfolding, the outcome of which has not yet been written down.

New monuments are being installed. Old projects are being expanded. Photos and biographies of Covid-19 victims in Malaysia and South Africa updated online. Landscapes in villages and cities are transformed by flashbacks, from a waist-high structure in RajannapetIndia, to shoot fixed pinwheel along a walking path in São Paulo, Brazil.

Names are painted on a wall along the River Thames in London and on Stacked stones in the heart on a farm in New Jersey. Thousands of fluttering flags were planted at the Rhode Island State Building. Ribbons tied to church fences in South Africa.

“People die alone in hospitals, or their loved ones can’t even see them or hold their hands, so perhaps a person died alone,” said Erika Doss, a professor at the University of Notre Dame who did the research. Some of these memorials must make for a better tribute,” said Erika Doss, a University of Notre Dame professor who researched how Americans use memorials.

“We really need to remember, and we need to do it now,” Dr. Doss said. “Covid is not over yet. These are the odd types of memorials in which names are being added. They are a liquid. They are timeless.”

It was not easy for the people who built these memorials to catch death. It is elusive and vast, like the virus in the air that has taken lives and left the question of how to create a physical manifestation in the void.

For the reserve builders in Bedworth, a former coal-mining town, the answer was to turn away from their community art with nearly 1,000 carvings in the arches, spires and pine sconces and birch, and turned it to ashes at sunset on May 28. .

One organizer said the moment of necessity is an event of rebirth and rebirth, in which those who once saw the sanctuary standing can now turn around and see it gone.

“It will still be there in their minds,” said Helen Marriage, the project’s producer. “Feel the emptiness, the same way you feel with this deceased loved one.”

More than a year after it startedNew names are still being added to the thousands of hearts scrawled on the wall along the River Thames in London.

A walk along its nearly half-mile stretch reveals how death gutted generations and left some countries untouched. Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish and Urdu were among the languages ​​in the messages to “Grandpa”, “Mother”, “Dad” “Nana”.

Uncle Joshua. My brother. My first friend.

Their authors tried to understand death. “Angel wings reached too soon” is how someone described Sandra Otter’s death on January 30, 2021. “Keep kicking” is the message to Big Pete.

The virus has claimed the lives of neighbors, comedians and drinking buddies, their stories told on the walls. Dr. Sanjay Wadhawan “gave his life to save others.” Cookie “still remembered at the post office.” To all “taxi, RIP” in London. “

Some try to create a sense of loss. Angela Powell is “more than just a number”. One wrote, “This is a murder,” and another said, “They all failed.” A woman named Sonia said to Jemal Hussein: “Sorry you died alone.”

The wall’s founders are citizens and activists who began painting empty hearts last year at the end of one of the UK’s lockdowns to represent the more than 150,000 people with Covid-19 on their death certificate in the UK.

Soon, the heart contained countless names.

“We have no control over it,” said Fran Hall, a volunteer who regularly paints new hearts and covers up any abusive graffiti that pops up.

“We can draw the part and people are adding the heart down deeper,” she said. “It is still happening. It is really organic.”

Dacia Viejo-Rose, who studies the use of social memorials at the University of Cambridge, says it’s tempting to “get out” of grief over Covid-19 because so many people suffer in isolation. .

“It became so much about the statistics of the death toll that we lost track of the individual suffering,” she said. “We lost track of individual stories.”

Those who are grieving often seek solace at an unrelated memorial, she said.

One day in June, Du Chen, a student from China studying at the University of Manchester, knelt down and wrote in Mandarin on one of the painted hearts in London, to “wish everyone good health. strong”.

“People are not only remembering the people they lost, but also the way of life before the pandemic,” he said.

A family of tourists from Spain stopped by, saying that their own people also suffered. Alba Prego, 10, runs her finger along pictures of hearts in mourning for a California man, Gerald Leon Washington, who died aged 72 in March.

“The people who wrote that article loved him very much,” she said.

Around her, unmarked hearts are waiting for new names.

With the death toll rising, there will be more.

Space is also being found in remembrance on a fence at St. James Presbyterian in Bedfordview, a suburb on the edge of Johannesburg. In early 2020, caregivers began tying white satin ribbons on fences for those who died of Covid-19.

By June 25, 2020, about three months after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, they tie the 2,205 . ribbon. In December, there are 23,827.

In January 2021, the month with the highest For the average deaths in South Africa, the church says for every 10 deaths, a bandage is tied.

More than 102,000 people have died from Covid-19 in South Africa, although the pace has slowed, the latest figures show. In early July, the fence had 46,200 ribbons tied to it, Rev. Gavin Lock said.

“Families have suffered greatly by not being able to visit loved ones in the hospital, not being able to see the deceased, and in some cases not being able to comply,” he said. according to customary rituals.

In Washington, DC, more than 700,000 white flags, one for every Covid loser, have been planted on 20 acres of federal land. From September 17 to October 3, 2021, mourners wander through rustling fields, writing messages and the names on the flags.

“I miss you every day, honey,” a woman whispered as she planted a flag, momentarily taken in a documentary published by The New York Times.

By May 12 of this year, when the death toll in the United States reach a millionPresident Biden ordered the flag flying at the half-staff level for four days in the White House and public areas.

The white flags have continued to go up.

Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, artist behind the installation, “In America: RememberA memorial using the new flags was planned for New Mexico in October. In June, thousands of trees were planted at the State House lawn in Providence, RI, in memory of the 3,000 people who died. died of Covid-19 there.

“What we are seeing is this push to tackle it at the state and local level, because nobody is seeing it happening at the national level,” Ms. Firstenberg said.

“The plane is still crashing,” she said. “And it’s painful for families not to understand somehow that the pain is still there.”

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