COVID-19 claims lives of numerous members of Churches of Christ
The Christian Chronicle asked readers to share memories of friends…
That’s the word that Lynn Jones, a Christian in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said she keeps at the forefront as her family navigates incredible loss due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jones’ father-in-law, Casey Jones, 88; brother-in-law James Jones, 65; and cousin Jake MacLeod, 68, all died as a result of COVID-19.
“I don’t know how people do this without God,” said Lynn Jones, a member of The Branch Church, a Church of Christ in Farmers Branch, north of Dallas.
Worldwide, more than 2.6 million deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 532,000 of those have occurred in the U.S., as of press time.
“I don’t know that anyone can understand the impact it has unless they have lost a loved one,” Jones said.
The human toll from the year-old pandemic is unfathomable for most.
“We all eventually just become numb to numbers,” said Adam Metz, minister for the Alum Creek Church of Christ in Lewis Center, Ohio.
To help people understand the magnitude, the church north of Columbus installed a flag garden honoring each of the lives lost due to COVID-19. The number of deaths globally stood at 2.5 million when the Ohio Christians planted the flags in the snowy ground outside their building.
The 2,500 flags — red for those who died in Ohio, yellow for those who died in the United States and blue for those who died around the world — each represented 1,000 lives.
“We wanted to provide some visual representation to help us appreciate the magnitude of lives affected by this pandemic and help remind us that every single life lost deserves our lament,” Metz said.
Unfortunately, for family’s like Lynn Jones’, the toll of the pandemic is still being felt deeply.
“It’s been a process,” she said. “My biggest fear is for my husband. If he got it, is he going to react like his father and his brother did?”
They aren’t alone. In a recent Christian Chronicle survey, members of Churches of Christ across the nation reflected on their loved ones who had died from COVID-19.
Amy Barbee, a member of the Lake Houston Church of Christ in Humble, Texas, fondly recalled her father, Eddie Stegall, 61, who died in December.
“He was a servant of God who lived his life to love others and teach of God’s love,” Barbee said. “He was our rock.”
Sue Winn, a member of the Mount Comfort Church of Christ in Fayetteville, Ark., shared about her father, Russell Slasor, 92.
“All through his life he was strong in evangelism, trying to teach people about the Lord,” Winn said.
Slasor contracted the virus in the nursing home where he and his wife lived. His illness was discovered during routine testing at the facility. At first, he had no symptoms, but days later his condition worsened, and he was put on hospice care.
“I’ve been a nurse for 33 years-plus, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Winn said. “Do all you can to stay healthy and strong in your faith, but prepare that you or someone you love could be gone from it very, very quickly.”
Casey and James Jones were diagnosed around the same time. The family doesn’t know how they contracted the virus.
Casey died in September. James, known as Jay to his colleagues at Oklahoma Christian University, where he once served as vice president of finance, was hospitalized and then put on a ventilator. He fought for weeks, but in November he, too, passed away. Just weeks later, in January, MacLeod died.
“I totally understand it not seeming real or as dire when you haven’t been impacted like that,” Jones said of losing three family members.
Metz encourages Christians, especially those who have not lost a loved one to the virus, to reflect on the pandemic’s global impact.
“It may be the one thing in our lifetime that the entire world has experienced at the same time,” Metz said. “This is an opportunity for the church to mourn with those who mourn. And there are a lot of people mourning.”
Winn encourages those who still have doubts about the virus — or who struggle to understand the magnitude of the lives lost — to take precautions and be careful.
“Do all you can to protect your family and protect everyone else,” Winn said. “Get the vaccine.”
After experiencing such loss, Lynn Jones said it’s hard to go out and see others disregard rules and guidelines that health experts recommend. But she reminds herself that all need to show grace and compassion.
“It’s a fine line of handling that part of it gracefully, the way God would want us to handle it, and also dealing with the losses we’ve had,” she said.
Her husband, Kirby, also a member of The Branch church, recently told her he prayed for a miracle for all three of the family members before they died. While he didn’t get the answer he hoped for, his faith is carrying him through.
“I came to the realization that they are rid of these earthly bodies, and they have gained their reward, which is a greater miracle,” he told his wife. “I have to praise God for that.”
OUR SURVEY to collect information about members of Churches of Christ who died as a result of COVID-19 is still open. If you would like to submit a name of a friend or family member, please fill out the survey at christianchronicle.org/covid19deaths
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