Death toll

May 28, 2020
MaryLou Driedger | Special to Canadian Mennonite

The cover of the Sunday, May 24 issue of the New York Times.

The cover of the Sunday, May 24 issue of the New York Times.

I started Sunday morning in tears as I read through the heartbreaking list that blanketed the front page of the New York Times. To mark the deaths of (at that point) nearly 100,000 American citizens, the paper listed the names of a thousand of them. 

Short phrases accompany each name, things like “a veteran who excelled at peacemaking”; “a nurse who loved to travel”; “a deacon of her church”; “a beloved school teacher”; “helping raise a dozen grandchildren”; “first black woman to graduate from Harvard Law School”; and “a singer in a Yiddish folk group.”

These little descriptors give readers a sense of each COVID-19 victim’s life and personality and what the world lost with their death. A similar list could be made for over 25 countries, including Canada, where thousands of people have died because of the virus. 

I wonder if things in our world would change if every morning newspapers would publish a list of a thousand names with little descriptions for children who have died of starvation in recent weeks, or young men and women killed by violence, or people whose lives ended because they didn’t have access to proper health care, or refugees who lost their lives fleeing impossible situations.

Someone I was talking to recently said their attentiveness to the death toll from COVID-19 has them looking at death tolls from other preventable things and wondering why they haven’t been as outspoken and aggressive about taking action to stop them.

We are changing our lives in huge ways, making sacrifices both personal and financial, to keep the COVID-19 death toll low. Why haven’t we been as willing to make similar sacrifices to bring down other death tolls in the world? 

Some people are angry that Donald Trump went golfing Saturday while thousands of people in his country were dying. But am I really any different?

Don’t I go golfing and biking while thousands of kids die of starvation? Don’t I draw and do jigsaw puzzles while thousands of teens are killed by violence and armed conflict? Don’t I visit my family and have fun with friends while thousands of refugees run from death? Don’t I watch movies and read books while thousands of people end their lives without receiving adequate health care? 

Sobering thoughts for a Sunday morning when sunlight is streaming in through my bedroom windows, I’m listening to the beautiful music recording my children made for the service at their church today and I can smell the cup of fresh ground coffee my husband is preparing for my breakfast. 

MaryLou Driedger is a retired English and journalism teacher who lives in Winnipeg. She blogs at, where this post originally appeared.

More articles by MaryLou Driedger:
Impressive work at Hutterite art exhibit
A complicated relationship


The cover of the Sunday, May 24 issue of the New York Times.

Author Name: 
MaryLou Driedger
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Special to Canadian Mennonite
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