Thoughts before the 42nd funeral | News, Sports, Jobs

Forty-two. A number divisible by two, six, seven, fourteen and twenty-one. It’s also the number on Jackie Robinson’s baseball jersey, which paved the way for people of color to enter the beloved sport. Molybdenum has atomic number 42 and is also the 42nd most common element in the universe. The 42nd parallel north is a circle of latitude located 42 degrees north of the Earth’s equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean. Today I reflect on my own 42.

Since May 2020, I have personally known or attended the funerals of forty-two deceased friends and relatives. Indeed, as I write this article, I am about to officiate the funeral of number 42. It has been roughly evenly matched with twenty of those friends and family who have passed away due to complications with COVID-19 and its successive variants and twenty-two to other diseases. I have known more people who died in their 30s, 40s and 50s from Covid-19 and, strangely, garden variety diseases, than I have ever seen before in such a short time.

My wife and I came down with the “original” Covid mid to late Dec 2020. I had it a bit worse than my wife. She had picked it up at a local nursing facility where she worked.

When the pandemic and lockdowns started in March 2020, I only knew of one or two people who died and another one or two sometime later. Maybe because in my previous job I was a numbers man in sales and marketing, I started noticing about the tenth loss of a friend or family member at the end of the spring 2021. Then the dam seemed to burst. The rest of the year I saw nearly thirty people whom I called friends simply fall from Covid or other illnesses.

I hated becoming numb to death. I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s my job to feel empathy, sympathy, something. It became apparent that I was trapped in a world of the deaths of so many people I knew and was struggling to feel anything and everything I felt felt inadequate. For a while, I even wondered if I could do my job effectively.

The politicization of this global tragedy has dampened any legitimate discussion about how to manage and move through this health crisis in a unified and dignified way. This worried me a lot. An open discussion was basically frowned upon if your thoughts deviated from the script. Sometimes we have ostracized ourselves through the literal and virtual divide. The daily drone of the number of cases, transmissions and deaths has done next to nothing to really help us get through this together. I have read stories about the Spanish flu from the early 20th century. What caught my attention was how absolutely devastating these deaths were. There were entire streets in cities and towns across the country where death entered uninvited homes and snatched the lives of unsuspecting victims. I also read how we came together to solve problems and be there for each other. The remnants of families killed by this plague often found refuge with neighbors and friends and they survived together, checking their politics, religion and cultural ideologies at the door.

As 2022 dawned, I knew I had to be saved from the wrath, the arguments over which science was the most correct, the howls of our televisions and computers, and above all the deaths I constantly struggled to process. I needed a rest from the constant barrage of information and notifications from dead friends, but to no avail. I never had time to mourn effectively before the next notification. Since January, there have been four more losses, including two high school classmates. I am only 58 years old. I spent a lot of time in prayer asking God to heal our nation physically and spiritually and to heal my heart and mind as well. In Matthew 11:28, Christ invites us to come to him with the promise that he will give us rest. The closer I got to that rest, the easier it was for me to see people as God sees people. We are his creation and he loves us. When we begin to love people as God loves and stop leaving them in the midst of conflict and confusion, our hearts that have suffered so much loss will heal under the protection of our God. The next person you see today, speak the words of Christ to them in love. If you cannot, then ask Jesus through His Spirit to give you this supernatural love. For only when we love can the voids of all our hearts be filled with the finer things in life.

Roy Weeden is an ordained minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He serves three congregations located in Lock Haven, Milton and Williamsport and is a pastor and board member of Mountain View Christian School in South Williamsport. He resides in Montoursville with his wife Laura.

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