A friend died a few days ago at the age of 73. Cause of death was a combination of ills of being a senior.
He was East Indian. Born in Kenya, where his father was posted in India’s diplomatic corps, though he lived much of his life in India and England. He was well-educated and was a successful businessman in England and the States. He and his wife, Nilini, raised two very successful - now adult - offspring who live overseas.
Though we met and started our friendship in Oregon, somehow, we found ourselves in Arizona years later. He, to own and operate a profitable business and me, to retire. Lived about 30 miles apart.
His name was Madhu Patel. In India, the name “Patel” is synonymous with “Smith” or “Jones” in this country. Lots of ‘em. The name originated among farmers and other agrarian folks centuries ago. I have two doctors named Patel and Barb has one. No relation.
Though Madhu was successful in business, he was a shy man. If you got to know him, he had a good sense of humor. He was honest to a fault. I found him to be a good friend. The kind of friend you could not see for months, then, when you got together, you just picked up where you left off.
So, why are we describing a man you probably never heard of? Because he lived. He was not a statistic! He was not just a number in someone’s record keeping of the comings and goings of medically-related outcomes.
Neither are the 680-thousand or so American dead. Victims of COVID. Each one a person. Each had a life that mattered to someone. Each was an individual in his/her own way. They weren’t just another digit on the national rolls of the deceased.
But, as the media reveals COVID-related deaths each day, that’s how it seems. Numbers. Statistics. Not flesh and blood. Not real.
I’d guess each of us knows someone who is/was a COVID victim. Someone who lived an otherwise “normal” life. Someone who mattered. To you. To many others. A Madhu Patel. A singular name with a real life. Someone who made a difference to others. Flesh and blood. Someone who was respected and cared about.
One thing that makes me so damned mad about the list of hundreds of thousands of COVID dead is a sizeable percentage made the list of their own volition, clinging to some excuse - some alleged “patriotism” - a resistance to authority - a loudly proclaimed “individualism.”
A bucketful of verbal B.S.!
Too often, the denier of medical science breakthroughs and qualified medical advice, becomes a statistic. Another number in the national death count. So much for denial. So much for “individualism.”
My friend, Madhu, didn’t want to die. He had family, friends, business success, a beautiful home and eventual retirement to live for. But, with the deepening physical failures caused by age, his death was inevitable. Those of us - family, employees and friends - who knew and loved him - are left to mourn. The man. Not the statistic.
So it has to be for each of the hundreds of thousands of COVID victims. Each had family. Each had friends. Each had a career. Each had aspirations for the future. I suspect none wanted to die.
Which makes the millions of voluntarily unvaccinated a mystery. Surely some have had family members or friends die. Or, knew someone who did. Surely some mourned. Have seen an unvaccinated life snuffed out. Have suffered loss.
Yet, millions of them - voluntarily unprotected - continue to cling to the denial of lifesaving science. Why do they let themselves in for hospital bills and/or burial expenses in the many thousands of dollars? Many may be forced into bankruptcy or lose their homes. And a shot that likely could have avoided all that takes only a few seconds. And it’s free!
Some deaths - like Madhu’s - can’t be avoided. They’re part of the natural cycle of life. We come. We go. And we, left behind, go on.
But, hundreds of thousands of the 690-thousand or so who suffered avoidable deaths - the agony and mourning - the high cost of life-saving medical care - the failure to recognize the dangers of turning their backs on free care that could sustain them in this COVID period - all of that could have been avoided. Except for ego. Except for vanity. Except for belief in some “invulnerable” being. Except for ..................
For Madhu, the father, brother, husband, businessman and friend, we mourn the man. The individual we knew. He didn’t die of COVID, but he'll be remembered as a person - not a number.