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Remembering who they were

Numbers rarely speak to me.

But if you say, “Let me tell you a story,” you immediately have my attention.

That’s why the cover of Sunday’s New York Times took my breath away.

Yes, the long list of names on the all-text cover is staggering, purely because of its volume. But the way in which the staff incorporated phrases to try to bring those individuals to life forced me to recognize the enormity of this loss.

Each of those names is a human life lived, whether for 5 or 105 years. There are nurses and musicians and teachers and grandparents, karaoke singers and dog lovers and gardeners, cooks and athletes, dancers and travelers.

The descriptive phrases popped off the page.

“Wasn’t afraid to try new things”

“Always room at the table to feed anyone who showed up.”

“Loved to spend time at the beach soaking in the sun.”

This isn’t just a list of names on a page.

It’s a snapshot of human lives.

It’s the recognition that these are people like us—but also not just like us. These are people whose lives enriched their families, their friends, and their communities. The world is different because each of them was born.

Those of us who believe each person is intentionally and lovingly created by God are compelled to recognize the beauty and dignity and purpose of each human life. This page spoke not just to that, but also to the fragility of our time on earth—not just while we are navigating a pandemic, but always.

Life is beautiful. Life is fleeting. None of us knows how long we have on earth. But we have today.

How might your life be summarized in words? How might each of us be remembered? How might we want those we love to be remembered? And how might the lives of those we have lost continue to enrich our lives today and tomorrow?

During this time of social distancing, as we wear masks and stay away from people we love, it’s important to remember that we are doing this because life matters. Because love matters.

The cover of The New York Times certainly gives a sense of how deeply COVID-19 has hurt us. The loss of those lives is overwhelming.

But the stories captured on the cover also convey that COVID-19 cannot change everything. It cannot change people’s love for one another. It cannot disrupt the beauty that the gift of every life can bring to our world. It cannot take away the joy we encounter in our ordinary, daily lives. It cannot interfere with the hope that carries us forward.

And maybe this time gives us a renewed determination not to let a day pass without assuring those around us of our gratitude and love.