Mycal X. Brickhouse: COVID-19 should remind us that life is holy, not disposable

Mycal X. Brickhouse snuggles with his grandmother, who died in July of COVID-19. Photo courtesy of the author

After losing his grandmother to the coronavirus, a pastor and administrator reflects on policies that value money more than American lives.

Holy was the life of Patricia Arlene Morris Brickhouse, born July 22, 1952, to Burley Morris and Emma Allen Morris.

Pat’s life mission was to encourage others. She had a vivacious smile that could light up any room. She had a spirit of generosity that inspired her to start a meal distribution ministry in her community.

She taught her children and grandchildren to treat the needs of people as holy, for life was holy. I know that because Patricia Brickhouse was my grandmother.

She also is one of the more than 180,000 Americans who have lost their lives to the coronavirus.

On June 17, 2020, after being rushed to the hospital, my grandmother -- we called her Momma -- was diagnosed with COVID-19. That would be the last day my family would see her in person.

Her admission to the COVID-19 ward of Cape Fear Valley Medical Center would isolate her from visitors, so our only connection was a daily FaceTime call. As the days progressed, she was placed on a ventilator, making even this connection more difficult.

For 25 days, my family prayed as our matriarch fought the coronavirus. Each day we tried to remain hopeful as we endured the roller coaster of positive and negative updates.

Along the way, when Momma could speak, she reminded us, “I’m all right.” Even in the fight for life, her faith was resolute. Though we felt helpless, on the sidelines of her journey, she was still teaching us a fundamental promise of our faith: that God will never leave you or forsake you.

On July 12, 2020, she died of cardiac arrest from COVID-19.

As someone who has lost his grandmother to COVID-19, I have the right to say that the greed of this country was not worth the cost of her life. Unfortunately, her death -- along with the deaths of the other 180,000 and counting -- was a direct result of a love for the riches of this world.

As a child, I heard the words of 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (NRSV).

When I learned this Scripture, I naively thought that only the person driven by the love of money would be pierced with many pains. But lawmakers’ love of money and pursuit of wealth has also caused many families, such as mine, to be pierced with the pain of losing their loved ones.

Lawmakers concerned with the economic effects of closing state economies debated the decision as if the health and well-being of our citizens were less important than a prosperous economy.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said, “There are more important things than living. And that’s saving this country for my children and my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us.”

For me, these comments exemplified a national dialogue that not only centered on economic impact but also treated some people as disposable.

Like my grandmother.

In a July 9 article for New York Magazine's Intelligencer headlined “No One Should Be Surprised That America Abandoned the Elderly to Die,” Sarah Jones summed it up:

“Proper care for the elderly and for people with disabilities requires what some corporate executives might call a restructuring -- an unpalatable task for those already at the top. … In the U.S. the elderly and the disabled aren’t quite unworthy of life, fit only for extermination. But they exist somewhere in the same hostile neighborhood. Life is expensive, which makes it a luxury.”

When lawmakers reopened the economy, they were saying that some lives are expendable -- too expensive to save. Were these lives worth the risk of attempting to save this country for all of us?

No.

For in the creation of humanity, God performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, breathing into the body formed from dust “the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). God made humanity in the image of God, thereby creating an intimate connection between humanity and God. Through the course of history, God has implored humanity to be holy, for God our Creator is holy.

By ignoring this, American lawmakers intentionally forsook holy lives, treating them as unavoidable sacrifices for the economy.

But each of these individuals had a story. Each made an impact on others. Lawmakers erased legacies to preserve a failing economy. As Christians, we cannot allow this to happen. Instead, we must remember that life is holy.

Therefore, we must interrogate our policies and determine whether they aid us in our efforts to be good stewards of the creation God has given us. And as lawmakers tout their heroic efforts to protect jobs and wealth during a global pandemic, we must hold them accountable to honor the lives of those lost.

For if we continue to wander “away from the faith,” we will only cause more pain for people who have endured too much already.

As people of faith who are called to bear each other’s burdens, we cannot allow people’s lives to be neglected for the pursuit of a strong economic future. We must tell the stories of these lives -- each one an individual created in God’s image -- precious lives that enriched the world through their gifts and love.

We must honor the lives of those lost -- like that of my beloved Momma -- by ensuring that the future we build is one that values life as holy.