COVID-19: How Should We Respond to the Death and Dying?

“The groans of the dying rise from the city,
and the souls of the wounded cry out for help.
But God charges no one with wrongdoing.”
(Job 24.12)

The groans of the dying rise from the city

We hear the groans through the media, the distressing daily stories and updates about the number of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19. Some are at risk of dying from the disease. Government and public health officials through the media provide us with tragic and unsettling stories and updates that note the increasing number of persons who died within our midst.

The souls of the wounded cry out for help

And we hear the cries of those who have been wounded by the infectious disease. Cries for help that are ever present when cough and fever is accompanied with shortness of breath and breathing difficulties that can lead to severe acute respiratory syndrome or worse, death.

The souls of those not wounded should cry out for help for the wounded

Those of us who are not wounded by the infectious disease should also feel wounded and cry out for help for the wounded.

May we cry out to God in intercession on behalf of those wounded by the infectious disease out of a deep sense of shared woundedness and emotionally exclaim

  • My heart is wounded within me (Psalm 109.22);
  • My heart is smitten (Ps 102.4);
  • My heart is in anguish within me (Psalm 55.4);
  • My heart pounds within me (Jeremiah 4.19). 

But God charges no one with wrongdoing

No one has been charged with wrongdoing regarding the coronavirus. It is our understanding that the virus broke out in one part of the world and spread to other parts of our world during the following months.

But God charges everyone with justice

And yet, we all have been charged with carrying out justice and empathy. For I, the Lord, love justice and hate wrongdoing (Isaiah 61.8) and uphold justice and do what is right (Isaiah 56.1) says our God.

How Should We Respond to Death and Dying?

Out of a wounded, smitten, and anguished heart that pounds within us, we should honor the dead and comfort the dying by upholding justice and doing what is right.

Honoring those who have died as a result of the infectious disease is to help ensure that their loved ones are cared for. Comforting the dying is to help ensure that they are cared for in their most critical hour of need and that their loved ones know they are cared for tenderly and compassionately.

How Have You Responded to Death and Dying?

During the past weeks, selfless people have responded to those who ultimately died or are dying, at times out of professional duty or at other times out of charitable duty by caring for them and/or their loved ones. The media has disseminated publications through the internet about these principled people that reveal ways that we can respond to death and dying by caring for others.

Who are those others? Others include those persons who may be dying. “Others” also include the majority of people who get sick with COVID-19 and only have a mild illness and recover. “Others” are persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic. Ultimately “others” also include most persons you know, your family, friends, and neighbors who are taking precautions to prevent infection.

Stories in the media that exemplify service to others include people who are making face-masks, providing food and meals, and offering therapeutic services on-line for free. Other stories have been about safely checking on neighbors and volunteering to do simple tasks for elderly neighbors such as grocery shopping. Other stories are about residential and commercial property owners forgiving rental payments from renters have also been included.

COVID-19 diaries written by those with the infectious disease have multiplied across social media, and they can help us discern ways by which we can best respond to death and dying.

How Will You Respond to Death and Dying in the Coming Days, Weeks, and Months?

How will you respond to death and dying in the coming days, weeks, and months? Taking time now to answer this question can help you best respond later.

The pandemic that we are experiencing serves as a reminder that we are charged with taking care of the stranger, the homeless, the poor, the hungry, the needy, the imprisoned, the widowed, the sick, the frail, and the elderly as noted throughout the scriptures. Indeed, groups of persons at higher risk of COVID-19 include lower income, homeless, residents in group home and nursing home settings, inmates, older adults, and persons with underlying medical conditions and those who are immunocompromised.

We are admonished in the scriptures to . . . “Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6.2) and that “The entire Law is fulfilled in a single decree: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5.14).’ Jesus said “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you (John 15.12).”

So, how will you respond to death and dying in the coming days, weeks, and months?

May it be to safely share your bread with the hungry, bring hospitality to the poor and homeless, clothe those in need, comfort the grieving, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood as encouraged in Isaiah 58.7.

And then, as noted in verses 8 and 9,

. . . your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry out, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

And upon hearing the Lord say “Here I am,” may you say as did Abraham “Here I am” and be willing, like Abraham, to do and give even more if asked by God (Genesis 22.1) no matter how wounded, smitten, and anguished your heart, as it pounds within you, because of the death and dying the pandemic has wrought.

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