Why A Missouri Woman Is Collecting Photos Of COVID-19 Victims

Jul 31, 2020

More than 1,200 people in Missouri have died from COVID-19. As the toll rises each day, the human aspect can get obscured. Angela Kender is looking to change that.

After losing her mother to COVID-19 in June, Kender started a project to commemorate other victims. She’s collecting their photographs at missouricovidmemorial@gmail.com. She has already has dozens of photos, and plans to show them to lawmakers at the Missouri state capitol.

TRANSCRIPT:

My mom, she was a very inspiring woman and she was always standing up for what she believed was right.

Well she's a doctor, she has a doctorate in psychology. She's a licensed professional counselor in Missouri. She had her own private practice for many years, has helped many, many people. … She also was a very spiritual woman, lots of faith, lots of fun, laughing. Loved her grandchildren, loved me.

She was a single parent and I am an only child, and so we were always together. She loved all fun and every day she told me, "Be sure and have fun, go have fun." Because I think she really recognized how valuable life is.

I talked to her every single day, and her — it just got harder and harder for her to talk. And you could hear the struggle in her breathing. And, you know, she didn't look good and she didn't sound good. But she was making whole sentences, I could communicate with her.

This is part of Essential Voices, a series of interviews with people confronting COVID-19.

And then Wednesday, I got to video conference with her again, and it was like a whole 'nother experience. She wasn't putting sentences together anymore.

Before [she died], that Saturday morning they let me video conference with her again, and I got to say all the things that you want to be able to say. But she was completely unresponsive, she didn't even twitch a finger. And I decided, at that moment that I didn't think that it would be in my best interest to watch through the video conference either. ... There was a chaplain when it was actually happening, there was a chaplain that called me and he was standing outside her room. And I talked to him through it.

And so, in the weeks of thinking about her being gone and what that meant and how isolated I feel, and how I don't see that our government at all levels is responding in the way that I think they should, I thought maybe what would help is if they actually see all of the people that have been lost.

I ... started looking for Facebook groups or like support groups for people who have lost family members. And I found a St. Louis-area one, and also some nationwide Facebook groups as well. And then, you know, I've gotten family members that have reached out saying things like, "I'm 28, my little brother is 25 and our father just died and we're completely devastated and expected to have so much more time with him. We would love to have him be represented."

And I've found from these Facebook groups that I've joined that there's just a huge community of people that are going through this extreme loss. And truly feeling like no one else understands what's going on.

I want us all to feel like our loved one is being acknowledged. That the loss of our loved one is important. And the best way that I can come up with right now to do that is to have them represented, their picture, their faces represented at our capitol so that our elected officials have to see what has been lost. And what this virus is doing, is taking away from our state.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative covering public health.

Side Effects, WFYI and Indiana Public Broadcasting are asking Americans about health issues, as part of America Amplified: Election 2020. The public media initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, uses community engagement to inform and strengthen local, regional and national journalism. Follow on Twitter at @amplified2020.

If you have a personal story to share from the front lines of this pandemic, wherever that may be, email health@wfyi.org.