He was frail and sickly, with a three-month history of poor appetite, weight loss, and a mild cough.
Hello, Daktari.¹ This is the nurse speaking.” Receiving such a phone call in the early hours of the morning could mean only one thing. My heart pounded faster, threatening to jump out of my chest as I paused to hear the dreadful words.
“I am sorry to inform you that your patient, Peter, has just died.”
I cringed hearing the bad news I had feared.
“I was attending to your patient as usual, and we were conversing normally. All of a sudden, without warning, he stopped breathing. We attempted to resuscitate him, but we were not successful.”
My mind raced back to the events of the past week. I had met Peter,² a 47-year-old man in my clinic, accompanied by his wife and son. He was frail and sickly, with a three-month history of poor appetite, weight loss, and a mild cough. He also suffered from tremors of both hands, characteristic of the alcohol withdrawal that his body was experiencing. Clearly, there was more to him than I first thought.
The social distancing and stay-at-home orders put in place by the government to mitigate community spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic had not made his situation any better. I could only imagine the darkness and anxiety that his mind had grappled with over the past few months. Noticing that he had respiratory symptoms, I quickly admitted him into the hospital ward and put him on supplemental oxygen and supportive care, in line with his COVID-19 diagnosis. It took only five days for Peter’s body to succumb to the disease, leaving behind a wife and two adult sons with questions that I couldn’t answer.
I snapped back into reality. Matthew, Peter’s son, was livid. “Doctor, how could you let my father die? I trusted that you would see him through! I thought he was already getting better and would be coming home soon. What have you done to kill him?” Matthew shouted at me. I was quiet. What could I say? How could I take away his pain? Especially when I knew that his mother at home had also been diagnosed with COVID-19. She had vehemently refused to come to the hospital for treatment.
All I could do was pray. Pray that the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) would comfort this bereaved family. I couldn’t find any words that would take away their pain. So I prayed. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would intercede for them, “with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26). I prayed that Matthew, together with all those infected and affected globally by COVID-19, would not “sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).
As I write this, more than 16 million people have been infected worldwide, with more than 650,000 deaths attributable to the deadly coronavirus. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm, with waves of uncertainty rocking lives everywhere. Our Saviour, however, can walk on water! He calms the winds and waves of our turmoil and anxieties, and invites us to experience peace that surpasses all understanding. Right in the midst of the storm He says, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39).
One day our triumphant Lord will give us front-row seats to witness His long-awaited victory—the death of Death itself. Then we shall sing, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Cor. 15:54, 55).
¹ Swahili for “doctor.”
² Names in this article are pseudonyms.