SHE DIED ON FRIDAY due to complications from COVID-19. And she was 30. Only 30.
I didn’t know Briana, who graduated from Faribault High School in 2009. But that matters not. Here’s a young life lost to a deadly virus, Briana’s name now on the ever-lengthening list of 7,091 (as of Tuesday) Minnesotans who have died from COVID or complications thereof.
My heart hurts for Briana’s family and friends. Her obituary and the comments therein, describe a vibrant and artsy young woman who enjoyed photography, crafts, sewing and music. She was also tagged as a passionate activist.
Briana’s friend Corrina writes: Briana was the most fieriest, artistic, and admirable person I knew. She inspired me to protest and we walked together through the streets fighting for justice. She made the world a better place.
She made the world a better place. I think we would all like to be remembered in that way.
It’s so important to remember that behind every COVID-19 death statistic is a person. An individual who loved and was loved. Who perhaps, like Briana, marched with fiery passion. Or quietly helped others via kindness, generosity and compassion. Or still had their whole life ahead of them. Like the first grader from Park Side Elementary School in Marshall who died on Sunday due to complications from COVID-19. A child with no underlying health conditions. My heart breaks. My cousin’s daughter teaches at Park Side. Marshall sits in Lyon County, in the southwestern corner of the state, in a region with one of Minnesota’s highest COVID infection rates.
As I watch and read media coverage of the COVID situation in India, my heart also breaks at the overwhelming number of new cases—some 350,000 in a single day—and the resulting deaths. It’s difficult to see film of people suffering, of bodies wrapped in blankets and lying in the streets, of oxygen masks clamped onto faces and hear the pleas for oxygen, medicine, PPE. Pleas, too, for vaccines.
I feel thankful that the US and other countries are offering help to the people of India in this overwhelming health crisis. Yet, I can’t help but think how people in the US are turning down vaccines, not wearing face masks, living like there’s no pandemic…
Monday evening I watched “The Virus That Shook the World,” a two-part FRONTLINE public television documentary featuring people from around the world in the first year of COVID-19. A doctor. Filmmakers. Dancers. It was heart-wrenching to listen, to watch. But necessary to document. Important to view. I felt my grief building as the film progressed. And then, when a daughter in Iceland shared the story of her mother’s death from COVID, all the grief and pain I’ve felt during the past year-plus erupted. I couldn’t stop crying as I observed this family’s loss and pain. I felt like I was crying the grief of the world. Crying for Briana and her family. Crying for the family of that first grader and the entire community of Marshall. Crying for those in my circle who have lost loved ones (seven thus far) to COVID.
In all this grief and suffering and pain and death, I hold onto hope. Hope that we can overcome. Hope that we can heal. Hope that we can set aside politics and misinformation and me-attitudes to do what is right. To care about others and to act like we care. To understand the importance of health and science in defeating this virus. To cry tears of joy rather than tears of unending grief.
© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Wow. This was powerful! Thanks for being so honest and open about your feelings as you realize that each one is a person, not a number, a person – with a story- a life lived and unfulfilled with this virus taking them all too soon. India and what is happening there is scary. Each of us has to think, if it worth it? Is it worth not just our life but others? How bad would it feel if we passed this virus on to someone without knowing and then find out it was our fault? That 6feet or a mask could have reduced or even prevented transmission. It is too soon for all of the USA to think “business as in 2019 pre-COVID”. I just hope, yes “hope” for less pain for those who are suffering from this horrible virus.
You make some good additional points, Paula, especially “How bad would it feel if we passed this virus on to someone without knowing…” I often wonder if those without masks or half-maskers consider this. I wonder if those healthcare workers who are opting not to get vaccinated consider this. How can they go about their lives or work without that sense of concern that they may unknowingly pass the virus on to someone who may become extremely ill or even die? I don’t understand this lack of care for others, this lack of respect for life.
And I agree that it’s way too early to throw things open and act like business as usual. But that’s exactly what’s happening in the US.
Lack of empathy for those who are suffering unless it effects themselves personally and then they want the World at their feet! My daughter-in-law, who is a nurse on a COVID ward in St Louis has shared with me how people coming in recently (and their families) are increasing rude to staff who are trying to help. Sad. When those who have worked so hard for the last year under unusual and extreme conditions have to take crap from anyone!! Ok, my soapbox time has now expired. Next…
Oh, Paula, this breaks my heart to hear how COVID patients and their families are treating your DIL. This only adds to the stress she’s already experiencing. Hers is a difficult job and I am thankful for her selflessness and for the compassion and care she provides.
It was heartbreaking to hear.
What would help? This breaks my heart, too.
That I can do.
Thanks for bringing to light Briana’s life. She was important and loved. We need to remember the people behind the statistics.
Exactly. These are people, not just numbers.