For many people, seven is a lucky, fun number. Seven wonders of the World! Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs! Three sevens for the slot machine jackpot!

For me, seven is none of those things. Seven is the number of people I have lost due to COVID.

It started in the final week of last March and continued with frightening regularity over the ensuing nine months. Death seemed to stalk me. I started to dread looking at my email or getting a phone call from a relative. For whom is “Death” the last friend now, escorting my loved ones away?

The first one was the hardest. The shock factor really hit home. My work kept me sane. I buried myself in books and work to keep my mind off of the loss, off of the lack of the funeral, off of the idea that the ashes were in a can in a “holding room,” waiting to be picked up at some future, unspecified time. I told myself that others have it worse, be grateful for what still remains.

But the numbers piled up. The phone kept ringing. Often the end came so quickly that the phone call related the scary trip to the hospital, the valiant efforts by medical professionals, and the excruciating end, all in one breathless statement. I started to mourn quickly, speeding through the process, not really letting any of it settle in for fear I would not be able to cope.

This past weekend marked the one-year anniversary of COVID – the lockdowns, the fear, the death. In the chill of early March, as the evening settled in, I sat outside, alone in the woods. I remembered all those who have left me and I cried and I cried and I cried.