Tragedy in Time of the Coronavirus

Ainsley Kling, Contributing Writer

My grandfather (far left) and his family in Key Biscayne in 2019.

Self-isolation, quarantine, and social distancing are all measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. These are things we know how to do, but what do you do if a loved one dies? Death is one of the most intimate moments the COVID-19 pandemic  is affecting. I have personally witnessed this. On Friday, April 10, 2020, my family and I got the dreaded news that no one ever wants to hear: that a loved one has just died. My loved one was my grandfather, but it might be a mother or a son for others. He was Paul Griffin Jones the second, a loving husband for more than 50 years, a Baptist minister, and a father of four. This is a description woefully inadequate to describe his vibrant life. Not only that, but it also has shortcomings in expressing the deep adoration I have for my grandfather. However, I am not talking about the long life of Dr. Paul Griffin Jones. The impacts of COVID-19 go far beyond the immediate deaths from Coronavirus, and it impacts the deaths of the uninfected as well.

My grandfather was in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in high school. He grew up to be a prominent person in Jackson, Mississippi, but may not be honored on the local news due to constant coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has affected loved ones who live far away and can’t travel to see their loved one’s funeral. For my family, my grandfather died in Jackson, Mississippi. Flights in and out of Jackson International Airport are scarce normally, but during a pandemic it is next to impossible to fly there. Flying there alone is a full day’s worth of travel. Planes have been almost entirely grounded and only two flights are taking people into Jackson. Even so it is not viable for any of us to travel that way in case we get COVID-19. That only leaves a near 15 hour car ride as the viable option and even then it is dangerous. 

The pandemic is also affecting our funeral plans. My grandfather always wanted to have his body donated to science. However, due to COVID-19, this service has been suspended. Instead, we are to cremate him and have the service this summer. The calling of paramedics to the house might even accidentally give COVID-19 to my grieving grandmother, who most likely won’t survive if she contracts it. 

If COVID-19 was not here, my grandfather’s death would be covered on the local news, as he was a prominent person in Jackson. He would have an obituary that people would take notice of, instead of looking at it as just another death during this time.

The impacts of COVID-19 are not only hurting the sick and the economy. They are hurting individual families. COVID-19 might not have caused my grandfather’s death, but it changed how my family and I deal with this tragedy.

A family picture taken in 1979 at the Student Center for Southwest Theological Seminary.