Names, Not Numbers

May be an image of 3 people, beard, people standing and indoor
Image Description: Friends and family lay hands upon Rev. Matthew J. Warfield at his ordination.

Each morning, I go to The New York Times website to check the COVID-19 numbers, and each day, the graph moves upward without a flattening curve. I see the number of new cases, the number of hospitalizations, and the number of deaths alongside the percentage increase from two weeks ago.

Average numbers from January 8:
656,478 new cases (14 day change of +226%)
127,225 hospitalized (14 day change of +78%)
1,524 deaths (14 day change of 12%)

These numbers, though informative in their own way, do nothing to tell the stories of upending grief.

My heart hurts because a young pastoral colleague died from COVID-19 over the weekend. He has a name. My heart hurts because people I love are aching. They have names.

The Rev. Matthew J. Warfield is the name of a beloved human being — loved by his family with names, his friends with names, his seminary colleagues with names, and the staff and members of First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor, all with names. He came to serve that church in August 2021. He was only 32 years old.

There are beloved people with names who knew him more closely than I did. But I enjoyed his presence and could tell he was very special. He was the first person I met when I arrived for a gathering of campus ministers at the University of Michigan. We sat together and enjoyed bagels. Then, months later, when another resident minister was ordained, I sat next to him, and while sharing a hymnal, we sang in harmony with gusto.

This beloved person with a name created a number of significant moments with beloved people I love, all of them with names, all of them now hurting. And I realize that the numbers cannot capture the stories of precious lives gone. This is devastating.

His memory is not gone. His impact will last as long as all his loves keep living, and likely, beyond that time too. But it hurts.

May his name be said with love. May all the names be said with love.

Renee Roederer

4 thoughts on “Names, Not Numbers

  1. What a tragedy. I heard through Keith via the St. Paul grapevine. I didn’t know you had a blog until this morning.


  2. Any one of us could be the next name on the list of those destroyed by this pandemic that is “fake news” and is “no worse than the flu” because the truly entitled value their so-called “freedoms” over the lives of others. Freedom is ONLY possible when balanced by responsibility.


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