BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - “I can honestly say for me this has been the toughest year of my life. I actually lost my husband at the beginning of the year. We lost a family member, one of our cousins we were at a funeral to say goodbye to her, and then we lost five additional people to COVID. So it really has been a tough year.”
State Representative Merika Coleman reflecting on the year since the first COVID-19 diagnosis in Alabama. Coleman and her cousin Jacqueline Edwards, a teacher with Jefferson County Schools, joined me by Zoom urging all of us not to let down our guards.
Edwards says, “You just never know where it started - who had it , I can’t say it came from the funeral and I can’t say it came from me. The only thing I can say is everybody needs to still take precautions and take care of your health.”
At least eleven members of their family were infected with the virus, but a devastating five members died.
Rep. Coleman says there could be more now.
She says, “You just kind of take one day at a time. This is one of the first days I’ve been able to talk about this and not cry. We will never be able to go back to normal. We are a big family that enjoys being around each other and we enjoy fellowshipping and eating together, so the next big time we were coming together was the family reunion.”
Coronavirus suspended those family reunion plans.
Coleman was very intentional about pointing out members of the family including Edwards who stepped up during the pandemic helping others.
Coleman says, “While some of our family members were recovering, Jackie had her own family to care for, and she was cooking for other family members tending to their needs. I just wanted to brag on her as a woman.” She goes on to say, “People grieve differently. This was the first time in my life I was paralyzed. The stuff that she was doing I couldn’t do, I barely left my home; the person that is the biggest talker and life of the party - for nearly three months.”
Coleman says, “Our family is a testament is that it only takes one interaction, we don’t know if it was exposure at the funeral, or we all congregated afterwards at various family members’ homes. We don’t know. Some of our relatives were in hotels and came from around the country. That’s why we don’t want people to, we don’t want them to let their guard down. "