White Flags

My Monthly Column in The Antelope County News

June 10, 2020.

Rev. Dr. Rebecca Z. McNeil

“Somebody’s father, somebody’s mother, somebody’s brother, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s child, somebody’s grandpa, somebody’s lover, somebody’s best friend, somebody’s coffee-drinking pal, somebody’s fishing buddy, somebody’s co-worker, somebody’s aunt—” For every white flag planted in front of First Congregational Church the past month, I have said, out loud, “somebody’s someone.”

Covid 19 memorial

I do not know the names or the stories of the Nebraskans who have died from COVID-19 this spring but I know they were loved and I know they are missed by somebody who is our neighbor.

When we started our memorial in front of our church building on May 6th, we planted ninety-one flags for ninety-one Nebraskans who died too soon and quite possibly alone, apart from their families in an isolation unit in a hospital cared for by heroic nurses and physicians. As I write today, one month later, there are one hundred ninety-six flags whipping in the wind in front of the church building.

On Friday afternoons at 3:00 pm, we’ve been ringing our church bell. It tolls once for every Nebraska life lost to this dread disease. Last Friday it took over twenty minutes to toll our bell that many times. We toll the bell at 3:00 pm on Fridays because it was at 3:00 pm on a Friday when Jesus drew his last breath and died. Though we may not know them, according to our Christian faith, those who have died are to be like Christ to us.

All of us are tired of social distancing. All of us are uncomfortable wearing masks. All of us just want life to get back to normal, but for one hundred and ninety-six Nebraska families and counting, their new normal includes a gaping hole of grief where once was somebody special. We owe it to them and to their loved-ones’ memory and to our own loved-ones, to remain diligent and careful so we can stop planting white flags in the church yard.

 

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