Sometimes I try to forget we’re living in the middle of a pandemic. I think we all have tried to ignore it at some point. Where’s the joy in decking the halls when there’s a deadly virus out there? But, as soon as I’ve put the coronavirus out of my head, a reminder finds its way back into my conscious.

Earlier this week, as I scrolled Facebook before bed, I came across a post from a woman I haven’t spoken to in three years. It was her husband’s obituary.

Tears began streaming down my face as I read through Astrid Hensel’s timeline, which listed updates as her husband’s heart and kidneys failed. Reading her posts out of order almost made it seem like his symptoms were easing, not getting worse.

That’s when I found her initial post from the day after Thanksgiving: “Am asking for prayers for my husband Steven Hensel. He is very sick with covid, is having breathing difficulties, which is also affecting his heart.”

COVID-19. Of course.

Steven Hensel, a former resident of Huntington, frequented the indoor pool and fitness center at Heritage Pointe of Warren. I worked at the pool and fitness center part-time for about a year while taking classes at Ivy Tech. (Steve wasn’t a resident at Heritage — while it is a nursing home, its pool is open to the public.)

Twice a week, I covered the evening pool hours. Twice a week, Steve came to swim. No matter how busy or how quiet business was each evening, he always stuck around until closing.

I enjoyed chatting with Steve. Over the months we got to know one another, I learned about his time in the army and how he met his wife while he was stationed in Germany. He shared stories about his family, and he shared details about what he and Astrid had for dinner over the weekend. (He loved to take his wife out on dates.)

On my 20th birthday, Steve brought in a cake that Astrid baked for me. The Hensels slipped me money for graduation and even met my boyfriend, Justin, before I moved to Muncie and left the job.

Something in me knew my last night there would be the last time I’d see my friend. Steve, 66, had health issues previously — there’s a reason his doctor suggested he visit a fitness center regularly. But pre-pandemic, I never would have known it would be a highly contagious disease that would signal the end of his life.

As I pored through his wife’s Facebook on Monday, I could hear Astrid’s voice, her words dripping with concern in each post. Reading her announcement of Steve’s death … that’s when I began audibly sobbing.

I haven’t seen the Hensels since 2018, but it upset me when I learned Steve was hospitalized because of the coronavirus.

Something about him becoming another statistic bothered me.

According to data from the Indiana coronavirus dashboard, we’ve had 51 deaths in Jay County, with 871 new cases per 100,000 residents in the last week.

In Huntington County, where Steve and Astrid live, 118 have died as a result of COVID-19. Two of those deaths were reported recently. Steve is one of those two.

More humans around the world die every day from this disease. With the low vaccination rates and new variants, it’s no wonder why.

At this point, it feels useless to ask others to get the vaccine or wear a mask. Are we shouting into a void? Is anyone listening?

We’re almost two years into this pandemic. People are tired.

People are also dying.

The amount of cases on the state dashboard is alarming. Each number on that website accounts for a human being. COVID-19 can be deadly, and that is not emphasized enough. Even if the death count seems low in comparison to the amount of cases, people, like Steve, are still dying.

While you’re enjoying festivities this holiday season, please be mindful of your health. Be careful around others. The coronavirus is still very real and alive, and it’s thriving in our community.