His name was Julia, but she was never born. It is the youngest victim of coronavirus. Her mother also died during an emergency caesarean section.
Her name was Sara. She was 28 years old and had practically realized her dream: to practice Medicine. That dream, however, turned into a nightmare that cut short her life. She was a health worker and died of coronavirus.
Their names were Severa and Luigi. They were 82 and 86 years old, but they passed more than 60 years together. They spent their last eight days locked up at home, until they received medical assistance. But it was too late. They died of coronavirus, with just a few hours apart, accompanying themselves to the end.
And the list goes on …
They are people who are no longer. Each one with their story, dreams and hopes. Their families. And yet, they have become a cold statistic with which it is intended to exorcise death and take away its humanity, so that those who remain look elsewhere and can imagine that the tragedy is not so tragic. Not so great the pain. Nor colossal the shame.
Institutional gestures are lacking. The flags waving at half-staff. The official mourning. The politician who empathizes – really. A crepe on television to remember them. A few words when starting the news. An applause on the balconies, dedicated only to them. Details that will not bring them back to life, but will let family members know that society embraces them in their pain and that it has not turned its back on them.
Death, omnipresent, but eluded
As the death toll increases unbearably, attempts are being made to suppress – also unbearably – those who are leaving us. Death is more present than ever, but it has also disappeared in the marsh of statistics.
Those dead in the daily bulletin have been dehumanized to become a conceptual and aseptic number. They are no longer a tragedy to become a statistic. They have become a curve. And also in an uncomfortable reality. That is reluctantly recognized. And, if possible, they try to hide it. So that society as a whole does not raise awareness of the magnitude of the damage and can only intuit, suppose, imagine, wondering, perhaps, if it is not exaggerating.
Now, with this flow of precipitous and lonely deaths, with graves without funerals, farewells without flowers and telematic mourning, those people whose bodies cannot be seen or veiled are at risk of falling – even more so if possible – into the anonymity and laziness of a part of society that only look forward and institutions that do not want to look back.
“Open mourning is closely related to outrage, and outrage at injustice, or excruciating loss, has enormous political potential”, wrote philosopher Judith Butler. That is why the leaders have always preferred to overlook it in their official narrative, turning them into faceless, anonymous deaths that first evoke a slight reaction of general anger to quickly fall into the terrain of indifference.
As a result, we are experiencing a situation of avoided death.
Remembering those who are no longer
Every society – and every person – tries to deal with death as best they can. It’s not about drowning in the drama, but maybe we need to reflect on what’s going on. We need to understand that reducing those deaths to statistics does not make us a better, more united, wiser, or more sensitive society. Quite the contrary.
The death of a loved one, of many loved ones, generates pain that demands answers. And those answers require words, a collective story that does not try to hide what happened, but rather gives it some meaning and allows us to anchor our life story in uncertain times.
It is about turning death into a decidable and communicable term. A reality that we do not look at from the illusory security that the sterilized numbers offer us but from the deepest empathy. To connect with the pain of those who are suffering in silence.
It is about remembering those who are no longer there. Those who couldn’t win the battle, but who may have won many battles before – for us. Those who passed away alone. Those that won’t have a funeral, that will not be mourned in public. If only to avoid desensitizing and dehumanize us.
Of course, at a certain point along the way, suffering, mourning and death must give way to hope and the desire to continue living. We have the right to smile again and dream again. Of that there is no doubt. We will have to look forward. But we cannot forget that a society that looks quickly to the future is condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Butler, J. (2010) Marcos de guerra. Las vidas lloradas. Barcelona: Paidós.
Thomas, L. V. (1991) La muerte. Una lectura cultural. Barcelona: Paidós.