On April 15, 1971 I was discharged from the Army. I was 22 years old. I went home to live with the family for a few months while I tried to figure out what to do with my life. I remember sitting with my stepfather and my mother one evening after dinner. At that time there were nine of 13 kids living at home, and after clean-up chores were done, everyone dispersed. Some headed out to play, some did homework, and others waited for the news to be over so they could watch their favorite TV shows.
Included in every night’s reporting of accidents, fires, weather, sports scores, politicians babbling and more, there was always ‘the count’. At least that is what I remember it as. The count referred to how many more American’s died in Vietnam in the most recent 24 hours. The ultimate count was 58,185 men and 8 women and so, on that evening in April, watching my parents watch ‘the count’, my soul cried.
Life is funny like that. The first time we experience anything new, we tune in. Play in your first basketball game, or sing that first solo, or stand at a door after a first date and wonder about the first kiss. We wanted to score the winning point, or hit the high note or get the thrill of lips touching lips for the first time. Almost all of life’s firsts are preceded by nervousness, anticipation and wonder.
Before I went to Vietnam, I would sit waiting with brothers and sisters for the news to end so I could watch The Monkees or The Beverly Hillbillies, and my mind never stopped to catch ‘the count’ because it went right over my head as I had heard it so many times. Each day the numbers grew and each day I was oblivious. So, when hearing the count post-Vietnam, my reality was coming from a completely different perspective. These were real people dying. Each number meant a family’s life back home would be changed forever. These were no longer just numbers. There were sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, dads and moms, husbands and wives taken in their youth.
I could see the torn limbs, the vacant eyes, the cold and lifeless flesh…and the blood. So much blood. To most of America, the nightly ‘count’ was just a number. To me, it was physical, mental and moral pain to the highest degree.
What does this have to do with the Coronavirus 49 years later? It’s ‘the count’ once again. Today, March 30, the U.S. count stands at 2,405 dead; 36,230 dead in the world! A person, your grandma perhaps, healthy as can be one day and two weeks later…gone. No more scent of her ‘Rose is a Rose” perfume worn too heavily, no more big snuggly hugs, no more pure love from this person who loved from the depths of her being. And due to the contagious nature of this killer virus, you could not be with her and she died alone. Her funeral could not be attended by all those who cared about her passing. She went from playing on the floor with your kids to a box put in the cold ground, just another number on the news to those who did not know her.
This Corona thing is serious. The numbers are horrifying, and so close to home for all of us. All of us, no matter our position in life, are susceptible to this unseen enemy that was unknown to all of us just months ago. For front line workers, the essentials among us, their reality is so different from those who are considered non-essential according to the government. Their reality is working day in and day out in the middle of the plague. They are ready and willing and dedicated to saving lives while our politicians from both sides quibble about self-serving ways to get the credit or get re-elected in November.
For all of the non-essentials, you should know that you are essential. Your job in halting and reversing the daily count is to stay home. There is little to add to this simple task. You can watch the news to learn about washing your hands and staying home. My point is the staying home part. I am healthy, and home, yet I work in an essential business. The cemetery and funeral business are filled with unsung heroes who go to work in fear each day, too. Imagine being exposed to strangers every day. As a staff member of a funeral home or cemetery, you are there caring for those who have to make final arrangements for their dead, and for their dying. You do not know if the virus is being breathed in as you want to be there for your client families.
As a 71-year-old cancer survivor, I am more likely to contract the disease than those younger, healthier people I work with, so I was asked to stay home. This tears at my very being because I feel like a person who sees something horrible happening to others and I cannot do anything for them but make sure I do not become a carrier, or victim, of the virus. I have lived a full life and know that there are others who are just beginning to live, to raise families and to enjoy the many gifts that God has provided to us all. I, in fact, volunteered to be at my desk and was asked to stay home. I do not fear death. I hate the thought of ever leaving my wife and children, and my Airedale friend, Mac…especially to this invisible disease.
Even if I am one of the lucky ones who lives to be a 100, I am still going to die. I do not wish to hasten the natural order of things, but I am not afraid. I believe in a heaven and hell and I expect to be in the good place.
Not that you may be seeking advice from this writer, but I feel obligated to share my path to peace. It is actually quite simple. You cannot find peace in your good works, though keep doing good works for those who benefit from your goodness. But there is a simple way for us all to accept the daily ‘count’ and that is to accept Jesus as your Savior. Many will agree and many more will be upset that they read this far, only to put everything in the hands of this ‘good man but not God’ person from 2020 years ago.
With so many of us confined to our homes, and with boredom or sadness from the gloom and doom broadcast daily on our big screen TV’s or tiny, hand-held devices, you have time to pick up your bible. If you do not have a bible, Google it. Listen to the stories contained there-in. Listen to Jesus talking to you as though you are there. He is real and He wants you to have peace. A simple acceptance guarantees you a place on the inside; the beautiful side of eternity.
So, go in peace. Do your part to help as an absolutely essential being by staying home. Yes, we will get though this together. Some reading this will leave this world due to the virus. And that is sad and awful and even a tiny possibility. And at the same time, everyone wants to get to heaven yet few of us want to do what is necessary to get there…we must die.
Enjoy your years on Earth and at least think about how simple it is to join those you love for eternity. Say ‘I do” to His words as written in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Finally, the phrase ‘Do not be afraid’ appears 365 times in the bible. That is a daily reminder: “Do not be afraid for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about as I am your God and I will strengthen you. Surely, I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Take a minute to look this up and send me the chapter and verse. Bless you all. Remember, this too shall pass.