Memorial Day is a day to remember fallen heroes. Many years ago I stood at the edge of the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France. I looked out over the vast numbers of white crosses, as far as the eye could see. Beneath those nearly 15,000 gravestones lay the US servicemen and women who died mostly during the Meuse-Argonne offensive along the western front during the last 47 days of WWI. I remember my feeling of overwhelming sadness at so many young lives lost. Yet the crosses represented only a tiny portion marking all the lives lost; the world forfeited more than 9 million soldiers’ lives, and countless more who died from starvation and deprivation as victims of the devastation of the “great war”.
Over one hundred years later, in the past two years, over a million lives are lost from COVID in the US alone. Three quarters of those gone are people over the age of 65. A great number of that older generation were past soldiers from prior wars fought, forgotten warriors, many of whom became infirm and marginalized.
In this war waged by a virus, we have witnessed countless dear ones who are no longer here because of COVID. In another country, a leader was quoted – (President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil)
“With my history as an athlete, if I were infected by the virus I would not have to worry. I would feel nothing or, at most, it would be a little flu or a little cold.”
This attitude has been reflected in a culture that views the elderly as less valuable and more burdensome than the younger generation, initially mirrored repeatedly in articles and speeches that the young needn’t have great concern because COVID wasn’t an issue for them…until it was. The aged relatives lost to COVID – elder brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents – leave a large hole in family gatherings. We will miss the wisdom of a long life lived that gave the family depth and breadth. As the ticker tape adds more and more numbers to COVID victims, another concern has been voiced: perhaps we are all becoming a bit immune to the devastating losses.
As the seriously ill and hospitalized COVID victims still number in the thousands across the US, the nurses and doctors at the front lines of this fight against COVID would tell you that the war is not over nor the battle won. And they are exhausted by it, like those healers in other wars responsible for repairing the carnage.
We have reached more than six million deaths globally to COVID. That war isn’t over, and yet there are more wars and rumors of wars that continue.
Pestilence and fightings mar mankind’s history. As long as humans inhabit and the earth remains, these will continue.
On this day of special remembrance for the lost warriors, there are also the healers, the ones left behind and all those we’ve lost…
We remember them.