A Single Death

Every day we are subjected to the current count of how many people have died from the disease du jour, and yet, what’s the point except to keep a tally? Does anyone really care? As of last night, 193 people have died in Colorado from The Bob, but people have died from other things, too. Don’t those deaths count? Even a single death diminishes us, so what difference does it make if one person died or a hundred or a thousand? It matters, of course, to the loved ones remaining behind, and perhaps even to the one who is gone, but why do the rest of us care about the number of people who have died of this disease? We certainly don’t care about the vast numbers of people who die from heart disease or cancer or traffic accidents. So why this? Why now?

Could it be that we are only concerned about ourselves and how close the disease is to us? Or do we simply care about the logistics? We are constantly being told about the lack of equipment (though a few experts think the very lack of respirators is keeping some people alive — there is evidence that the respirators in some cases are hastening the end of vulnerable patients). And we are constantly being warned about the necessity of “flattening the curve” to keep from overwhelming the system (even though some epidemiologists think we are merely prolonging the life of The Bob). So is that what we care about?

Unless we personally know someone who has the virus or have lost someone to the virus, or unless a celebrity has died, we don’t know enough to care about anyone who is suffering. (Though why anyone would care about a celebrity mystifies me, since the deaths of unknowns are tragic, too, but discussing that is too much of a digression even for this blog.)

So what difference does it make how many have died from this particular disease?

Yes, I know, it is tragic that people are dying, but people are dying from other things, and that is tragic, too. A friend recently lost her husband. Except for those of us who knew her (or her husband) no one in the world cares. But if we care about those who die from The Bob, shouldn’t we all care about him, too?

Another friend is going through chemo. That’s every bit as dangerous and life-threatening as the vulnerable folks who get The Bob, and a lot more dangerous than the less vulnerable, since most cases aren’t much worse than a bout of the flu. Chemo is certainly more dangerous than those who have the virus with no outward show of symptoms. So shouldn’t we all care about the woman going through chemo, too?

Why discriminate on the basis of disease? We can care about this disease but no other? So what do we really care about?

That this disease is spreading faster than other diseases at the moment? It’s still not worth the draconian measures being taken to stop the spread. And is it really spreading that rapidly? If so, why are not all the “essential” employees dying? Why aren’t the “essential” stores closing because all their employees are sick?

New studies show that the cities that are the hardest hit are the cities with Chinatowns and high Asian populations. If that’s true, instead of quarantining the rest of the country, why not simply quarantine those neighborhoods? Oh, but you can’t. It’s racist. So, to protect the sensibilities of one community, we have to impose harsh punishments on all of us. (That staying at home and sheltering in place and only shopping for necessities is not a hardship for me do not make such stringent measures any less harsh.)

I keep saying that the measures being taken to flatten that mythical curve (and it is a myth — a projection — and so far, most projections pertaining to this disease have been wrong) don’t affect me, but obviously, I am wrong. Being housebound is giving me way too much time to think! And I have an overactive “thinker” to begin with.

But still, someone has to think about these things. Someone has to care about those dying from diseases other than the disease of the day. Someone has to look beyond the numbers and see the tragedy in even a single death.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.