Story at a glance
- Carolyn Freyer-Jones lost her father due to COVID-19.
- She and her brother began observing a minute of remembrance every Friday for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
- As the death toll mounts, those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic are seeking ways to remember them.
Carolyn Freyer-Jones is asking for a minute of your time. Not for her, but for her father, and the more than 215,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19 and those they have left behind.
“We’re being given choices every single day about how we’re going to be during the pandemic. Am I going to mask or am I not going to mask? Am I going to get angry at someone who’s not masking or how am I going to handle that?” she said. “Every day we’re being faced with choices of how we’re going to be with ourselves and each other. To me the Friday minute is a way to rise above those choices and remember that we are not different.”
A member of a private Facebook group, "COVID-19 Loss Support for Family and Friends," she and her brother knew they weren’t the only ones struggling with the grief of losing a loved one during this pandemic. But as the summer turned into fall and the pandemic’s death toll continued to rise, they were looking for a way to bring those in physical isolation together.
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“We hear all the time, now we’re up to over 210,000 people who’ve passed. I think about the people around them. My family had 13 people who were intimately impacted by my father’s loss. So you multiply 210,000 people, let’s just say on average that each person had roughly 10 people who are walking around now in their own grief. Just the impact of that,” she said.
Her father, Hugh Freyer, was admitted to Montefiore Medical Center in New York City as the former hotspot was finally beginning to flatten the curve. He was there for health reasons unrelated to the pandemic and didn’t have COVID-19. On the day he was scheduled to leave to a rehabilitation facility, he tested positive.
"I read a lot. I wasn’t not reading up in terms of the pandemic, but I didn't really understand in terms of testing. I had an assumption that well of course, they must be testing doctors and nurses and people who work in hospitals at least weekly. They’re not. They can’t,” said Freyer-Jones.
She doesn’t blame the hospital for her father's death nine days later, but the lack of resources. Hugh was scheduled to be taken off the ventilator the next day, but he died on his 86th birthday.
"How does someone get to do that? Who gets to come and go on the same day?" she said.
A native of New York, the private banker and veteran had recovered from alcoholism and devoted his time to counseling patients at Mount Sinai West who had been admitted for drug and alcohol overdoses. Hugh was the son of immigrants, a husband, father and grandfather. He played poker on a budget and bought each grandchild a car when they came of age and set aside money in his will for Freyer-Jones’ daughter’s first car.
“In some ways, [the Friday minute] helps me honor my dad,” she said. “But in some other ways it’s because there’s so much discord right now, there’s so much divisiveness and there’s a higher purpose, something bigger that we all need to remember. We’re not alone.”
Freyer-Jones, a personal coach, began #thefridayminute on Instagram and still goes live every Friday at noon to observe 60 seconds in honor of those affected by COVID-19 in any way. Others, including Deepak Chopra, Andy Cohen and Mandy Moore, have joined in and shared their own videos on the movement’s website.
“It’s not even the loss of loved ones, it’s the loss of livelihoods,” said Freyer-Jones, whose husband was furloughed during the pandemic. “It’s the loss of jobs and it's the loss of connection and it's the loss of all sorts of things and that became the broader intention of the Friday minute.”
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