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.
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