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We remember COVID-19 victims

This past year has been unlike any other. It has been a year of death and separation, and the culprit has been COVID-19. Today we remember those in our midst who have died due to COVID-19. The photos on these pages are only a fraction of the 156 lives lost locally to the infectious disease. The photos were submitted by family and friends.
All 156 persons were people who were loved and made a difference to someone. They were someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, friend, co-worker, etc.
Like so much else in life, the coronavirus upended business. Funeral directors — who at their best are a guide for the grieving — have had to rethink everything to help families say goodbye. 
Doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks and delivery drivers, nursing home employees, and teachers have been among the most celebrated heroes of the global pandemic — and deservingly so. These essential workers, sometimes called first responders, have now worked in high risk environments for more than a year with little rest and little solace.
Less attention has been paid to the pandemic’s cast of last responders, who for the past year have quietly helped families find closure in unprecedented times.
“I guess the thing that bothers me most is that most of these died alone. No family there to hold their hand. In many instances, there was no one. Sometimes, a nurse or doctor,” said Junior Stalcup of Memorial Funeral Chapel.
Before the pandemic, funeral directors grappled with the most basic aspect of their jobs: how to conduct services safely. “COVID took away the opportunity to grieve together as a community,” said Stalcup. “We had to figure out how to help families during this time — a time when friends could not come together for funerals or viewings.”
COVID-19 in many instances canceled funeral services at churches. For the most part, it has been just a graveside service with family only. There was no receiving of friends…just a time to call at the funeral home and sign the book for guests.
“There has been one thing that has stood out for me. Many times as we made our way in the funeral procession down West G Street to Happy Valley Memorial Park, a small boy, probably no more than five years old, would run from his home down to the edge of his yard, and stand at attention and sometimes salute as the ambulance drove by. Those moments have really touched me,” Stalcup shared.
It’s not been an easy time for anyone. Nursing home residents were locked down for almost a year. They were unable to go out, families and friends were unable to come in. No haircuts, no church services, limited activities. Their only view of the outside world was through a window or via television. There were times when the days were long and there seemed no end to a pandemic which had changed everything.
Church changed. Services were held on-line or outside in the church parking lot. No choir, no songbooks in the pews, no Sunday School classes, no cantatas at Christmas, and very few Easter cantatas this Sunday.
Children attended school virtually. The library closed as did the local senior center.
Life as we knew it seemed to stand still.
Today, Easter Sunday, there is hope with the vaccine rollout. As the song from the Broadway musical Annie promised: “The sun will come out Tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that Tomorrow there’ll be sun. Just thinking about Tomorrow clears away the cobwebs, and the sorrow ’til there’s none!
“When I’m stuck in a day that’s gray and lonely, I just stick out my chin and grin and say, oh the sun will come out Tomorrow. So ya gotta hang on ’Til Tomorrow!…”