Honoring those who died from COVID-19

Luminarias create a memorial to those who died from COVID-19 as COVID-19 survivor Barb Zimmerman speaks during a special service Nov. 24, 2021, in Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center Atrium.

While taking an extra helping of turkey and stuffing, this is also a day for taking stock of the blessings around you.

We join with our readers in celebrating friends and family, community and country.

We urge those traveling for the holiday and gathering with large groups to take precautions when on the road and around others during an ongoing pandemic.

And we recognize that many are hurting on this Thanksgiving – from homelessness, illness and loss.

Conemaugh Health System’s luminarias for COVID-19 victims on Tuesday was a well-timed reminder that our thanks should extend to those who work long hours to keep us safe – or comfort us when challenges arise.

Toni Allen, a Memorial Medical Center employee, recalled being taken to the hospital on Thanksgiving night last year where her own colleagues treated her for COVID-19.

Allen was going through cancer treatment when she was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

“There’s a sense of community through all this,” Allen said, as our Randy Griffith reported. “I just praise God for all of you who take care of all of us.”

Conemaugh co-worker Barb Zimmerman said she and her son were both diagnosed with COVID-19.

Her son was very sick, with kidney failure.

“Even in his darkest days, they rallied him,” Zimmerman said. “We are family here.”

Some will sit down for Thanksgiving dinner with an empty place at the table – perhaps missing family members lost to the virus.

We offer them our prayers of comfort.

Dr. Talha Mehmood remembered a patient whom he encountered through his work as an attending physician in Conemaugh Memorial’s intensive care unit.

Mehmood wrote the man’s name – “Luke,” and “you were awesome!” – on a bag on Tuesday and lit a candle within the luminaria in his patient’s honor.

“Tragically, he didn’t make it,” Mehmood said.

Dr. Elizabeth Dunmore, chief medical officer at Conemaugh, said remembering those we’ve lost and sharing our feelings with others is “part of the healing process.”

She said the hospital gathering was a way of “bearing witness to how challenging this time has been and how difficult – but also to show some stories of hope and survival in the midst of grief.”

We are especially thankful this season for health-care workers, counselors, emergency responders, pastors, funeral directors and others who have been on the front lines of a pandemic.

And we are thankful for the blessings we see all around us – even in the most difficult of times.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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