The Covid-19 scythe was ruthless as it was devastating nation after nation, demanding everything types of people in a death toll now approaching 2 million.
The elderly, especially those in nursing homes, have been reduced to tragic proportions. The same goes for health care workers, black Americans and native people. At various times, it was New Yorkers, Northern Italians, Peruvians, Brazilians, Indians.
People in many professions have suffered: teachers, police, politicians and former professional athletes; university professors, preachers, musicians and journalists. The couples died within days of each other. Even a survivor of the 1918 Spanish Flu died.
Here is another, less obvious category: those who were starting new chapters in their lives – a second act career, a home after homelessness, freedom after unjust imprisonment, love regained, parenthood. For them, in the words of poet Philip Larkin, the loss was “time / ripped unused”.
The Yale School of Drama class of 1980 included a young woman named Margaret Holloway, an aspiring director, comedian and playwright full of promise. Mental illness and addiction stepped in, and Ms. Holloway became a tousled, often homeless New Haven street figure, accelerating change with dramatic readings from Shakespeare. Finally, over the past few years, she has regained stability: permanent residence in a retirement home with regular meals, clean clothes, and visits from friends.
Willie Levi, whose life has been so long marked by near bondage, was released 11 years at the end. He and other men with intellectual disabilities were sent in 1974 to a turkey processing plant in Iowa; for decades they were confined to a miserable dormitory, earned a pitiful salary, and suffered abuse. It was not until 2009, spurred on by newspaper articles, that local authorities intervened and freed the men.
Myles Coker was sent to life imprisonment for heroin trafficking, leaving his two young sons without a father present. But by an oversight, Mr. Coker was never informed that the sentence was reducible. His sons and his lawyer understood this, and after nearly 23 years in prison, Mr Coker was released. He still had six years of freedom.
The road to a career or a stable job can be long and difficult for many. Several victims of the pandemic have walked this road and reached a settlement, but hardly had time to live there.
The Halfway Club at Casale, the oldest restaurant in Reno, Nevada, had been part of Tony Stempeck’s family for over 80 years. When her mother passed away on September 26, it did pass to her. He died less than a month later.
Yves-Emmanuel Segui was a pharmacist in his native Ivory Coast; after emigrating to the United States, it took him eight years to pass the exam necessary to practice here, and seven more to find stable employment in the field. He died less than a year later.
Marni Xiong, a community and labor organizer in St. Paul, Minnesota, had political ambitions – she was considering becoming the city’s first Hmong mayor. She was on the right track when she was elected president of the school board in January. Six months later, Ms. Xiong was dead.
Vanee Sykes discovered her calling six years ago, upon release from prison for a white collar crime: to establish and lead programs to help women make the transition from prison to family life.
After years of more lows than highs in theater, Nick Cordero achieved success in the 2014 musical “Bullets Over Broadway”, leading to a succession of other Broadway roles. He died on July 5.
In Brazil, José Luiz da Silva, the son of a poor peasant, achieved a celebrity of a different kind. His “What, am I worried?” The response to a 2016 social media post mocking his small stature and high-pitched voice went viral, and he was rocketed to internet stardom – which he turned into TV and music video appearances. .
Covid victims had reached so many other stages before their deaths. Israel Sauz, the assistant night shift manager of a gas station in Tulsa, Oklahoma, had been a father for only three weeks; Lorena Borjas, an activist on behalf of transgender people, many of whom are immigrants, became a citizen last year; David Toren had doggedly sought to recover a precious painting that had been looted from his family by the Nazis; he had possession of it for only five of his 94 years.
Stuart Cohen, a taxi driver, discovered Buddhism. Kimarlee Nguyen, an English high school student and accomplished short story writer, had started a novel. Raymond Copeland, a New York sanitation worker, had found love after raising his three daughters as a widower; he was considering buying a house with his fiancee.
As his friend Mike Arroyo said, perhaps speaking of so many Covid victims, “Ray was living his best life the past two years.
Daniel J. Wakin is the editor of the Times ‘The Those We Lost’ obituary project.