Archive of Issues
Archive of Narrations
Syndic Literary Journal

Pandemic Death

By LeRoy Chatfield

For more than thirty years I have been writing  Easy Essays  and it never once occurred to me to write one about death.

Why would I? Death is commonplace,  simply a part of Life.  Everyone who is born must die. Avoiding death is not an option nor is it a choice to be made.  Death is, and it happens when it happens.

Because one’s death is unpredictable and can happen at any time – we know neither the day nor the hour –  Catholic catechism  emphasizes that to be worthy of eternal life in heaven   it is necessary to be in the state of grace at the time of one’s death,  and failing that, saying a perfect Act of Contrition  on your death bed is your next best bet!

As I  write about death, I  remember there was a very brief period in my life – a few months during my second year of college – when I thought about death. Not exactly about dying itself  but I came to believe that my life was destined to be a short one. I would not live a long life.

I am not sure why I became convinced of this – perhaps I had been reading Butler’s Lives of the Saints, which I very much enjoyed, and where I often met religious people whom I admired and who oftentimes were martyred or persecuted for their Christian beliefs. Or perhaps my prediction of a short life was just a kind of coming-of-age premonition I had about my future as a person –  something young people  often wonder about.

I don’t remember being obsessed – or even upset –  by the thought my life would be short, rather it was  a matter-of-fact realization and an acceptance  that this would be my destiny.  

As I write this piece now at age 85-years, I know it must sound a bit silly and even childish, but it did not seem so at the time.  Truth to tell, I also  have to be  honest and say  that throughout these intervening sixty-five years I have never once complained about having lived too long or ever been unhappy because I failed to realize my youthful self-selected destiny!  

 How like an old man!  I start down the track with one train of thought and end up in the weeds.

I write about pandemic Death.  Just today (April 6, 2020 NYT)  4,800 deaths in New York; more than 10,000 deaths in the United States; 70,000 deaths globally and 1.2 million people have been infected with a deadly virus and there is no end in sight.

Entire countries besides our own have been turned upside down – China, South Korea, Spain, Italy, France, United Kingdom – 176 countries in all. No country has been spared!

The CDC predicts the number of deaths of from the pandemic virus in the United States will range from 100,000 to 240,000 people – even the best case scenario is 10 times the number of deaths already recorded.  Incredible!

Bodies of loved ones are placed in body bags and stored in refrigerated trucks lined up in the alleys behind hospitals; no family  members are  allowed into the hospital ICU units to say goodbye; no funerals or memorial services permitted; no family gatherings organized to mourn their loss;  no names of the deceased released to the public  and barely a handful of obituaries about celebrity victims have been published.

The lives of thousands – tens of thousands – of mothers, fathers, daughters and sons will be   summarized and defined as “victims” of a pandemic virus. Grandchildren yet-to-be born will only know their deceased grandparents and family ancestors     as victims – as statistics –  of an invisible virus that covered the planet decades ago. For all intents and purposes, they might as well be buried in unmarked mass grave sites – and forgotten!  What happened, happened, people will say.

This morning’s news? More deaths, more infections, more hospitalizations, not enough ventilators!   Death marches on!

And for my part?  Watching and waiting, I am hanging on for dear life!




Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
History of Syndic
Write Letter / Contact Publisher
© all photos/text

Archive of Issues

Archive of Narrations