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Brother Ronald Marin, a 30-year-old lay worker from Venezuela, walks along a road lined by graves, inside the Martires 19 de Julio cemetery in Comas, on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Brother Marin traces a small cross on the forehead of Aurora Davila during the burial service of her 35-year-old son who died of covid-19. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

There isn’t much that is certain in life. We’re born, and then we embark on the twists and turns of navigating the days and years. And then we die. The first and last parts are the most self-evident. The middle part is full of mystery, misery and joy. These days, living under a pandemic has offered new complications. One of the most heartbreaking is what happens when we die, if we are unfortunate enough to succumb to the coronavirus.

For many, this final punctuation mark of life is carried out more or less alone. Fearing further spread of the virus, many patients on their deathbed are able to interact with their loved ones only through technological means: video calls on phones and tablets. Those who are lucky may be granted the opportunity to see their loved ones in person, but that’s not the case for many.

And so funerals have changed for many people, too. Again, for many, these affairs have become virtual events. But there is one man in Peru who believes it is his duty to preside over funerals and comfort surviving family members. His name is Brother Ronald Marin, and Associated Press photographer Rodrigo Abd spent some time with him.

Although not as broadly affected as, say, the United States, Peru has still been battered by the virus. At the time of this writing, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported 463,875 confirmed cases and 20,649 deaths. However, in late July, reporting by the Associated Press revealed that the numbers could be higher. According to the AP, “Peruvian authorities and the Pan American Health Organization are investigating whether the country failed to count 27,253 deaths caused by the novel coronavirus, a figure that could more than double the country’s official death toll from COVID-19.”

Whatever the numbers may be, even one death from the virus is tragic. Among other precautions Peru has taken, churches have been shut, putting an end to indoor funerals. But Brother Marin continues to comfort families, and perform funerals in person and in a cemetery on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, bringing much-needed compassion during a time of global tragedy.

Abd’s photos take us along with Brother Marin as he performs his duties. Clad in a white robe sometimes flecked with dust from dirt roads, Brother Marin accompanies caskets carried by family members to burial sites; he pays visits to people at home, praying with them and offering solace; and he presides over memorial services for people who have died of covid-19. Brother Marin’s actions serve as a reminder that even in tragic and uncertain times, people are still very much capable of showing understanding and compassion and resilience.


Brother Marin leads a prayer service for Pantaleon Pinedo and his son Antolin Pinedo, who both died in May. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Aurora Davila, right, comforts her grieving 15-year-old granddaughter Tatiana Palomo as she lies on the grave of her father, who died of covid-19. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Brother Marin accompanies the relatives of 87-year-old Juan Tito Ramos. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Brother Marin talks with mourners Ines Rodriguez and Elisa Sabogal, as the remains of their 62-year-old uncle Arturo Sotelo are buried. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Brother Marin leads a burial service for Juan Tito Ramos. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Brother Marin has lunch between burials, at the entrance of the Martires 19 de Julio cemetery in Comas, Peru. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Brother Marin holds up his crucifix before a tomb, offering a prayer. His worn-out cellphone rings in the early morning with calls and messages from people who ask him if he will be in the cemetery the next day to offer a prayer at the tomb of a dead relative or to preside over a funeral. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Brother Marin prays over the coffin that contains the remains of Keizer Quinones and Sarai Araujo’s unborn daughter. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Brother Marin prays with Jose Munoz, who suffers from osteoarthritis, in Comas, on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

A child looks out her front door while Brother Marin visits to pray with family members of covid-19 victims in Comas, Peru. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Brother Marin adjusts his mask as he prepares to lead a memorial service for Julia Ascencio, who died of covid-19, in Lima, Peru. Sometimes Marin, one of the few Catholic Church representatives who remain in cemeteries alongside the mourners, is invited to pray at the homes of the deceased after the first month of death. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Brother Marin sprinkles holy water on the coffin that contains the remains of 97-year-old Ruben Val, as granddaughter Leslie Gonzalez holds her cellphone so that her parents can take part in the service via video conferencing. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Brother Marin visits with relatives and neighbors after leading a memorial service marking one month since the death of Julia Ascencio. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

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