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Dad and COVID vaccines

A Letter from Mark Hare and Jenny Bent, serving in Costa Rica

Spring 2021

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Hello dear friends,

My father passed away three weeks ago on April 9th, and I would like to share with you a little about his life.

I was able to be with my family and our family friends for the celebration of Dad’s life. Serving the Latin American Biblical University (the UBL for its initials in Spanish) in San José, Costa Rica since January 2020, Jenny, Keila, Annika and I have been able to remain here all during the pandemic, adapting and learning to work in new ways. But even before Dad passed, I had purchased a plane ticket. I tested negative for COVID-19 on Monday, April 12th and flew to Ohio on Wednesday the 14th.

Dad was 90 years old, a goodly amount of time to be on this earth, and his last couple of years were not easy for him, nor for Mom. Still, knowing that hasn’t eliminated my family’s sadness at his passing, nor does it help knowing that Dad lived life well. During visiting hours Friday April 16th and after the memorial service on Saturday my family and I were bathed by the peoples’ stories of what Dad had meant to them. Simple notes, more stories and even photos shared on social media and in cards mailed to Mom have brought joy—small bright rays of light. But grief persists, washing over me at unexpected moments.

I was with Mom for a little over a week before returning to Costa Rica. It was good to be in the house with her, eating breakfast and supper together. I walked Penny, Mom and Dad’s Jack Russell Terrier once or twice a day. I also prepared the meals, and I got Mom’s rhubarb patch weeded, fertilized and mulched. For a few days I was the designated person to go get the mail down at the village post office, but I think Mom decided that she didn’t like waiting for me to get around to it—she started doing that herself.

I also started sorting through Dad’s books. He has more than a thousand, most of them in his crowded basement office. Most days I went down to the cold room, turned up Dad’s gas heater, sat on his old footstool and pulled books off shelves. I found two apps that helped me catalogue and publish part of the collection online where family members and other key people can see what there is. I got around 350 titles uploaded and I sorted several hundred more into boxes by category, including a surprising collection of children’s books. Normally children’s books are my Mom’s area.

Over three hundred of the books that I catalogued were centered on Appalachia, one of Dad’s longtime passions. Southeast Ohio, where my brothers and sisters and I were raised is in the foothills of Appalachia, designated in the 1960’s as a main focus of President Johnson’s war on poverty. Dad’s books cover a wide spectrum of themes related to those hills and mountains. The books I tended to dip into last week were the collections of folk humor and folk tales. I read a couple of the stories to Keila and Annika when we did Facetime one evening and I brought three or four of those books back. One night when Jenny and I were chatting, she said to me, “You aren’t bringing more books here are you?” I laughed.

A lot of Dad’s Appalachian books, though, are social, political and economic analyses. A few that I found compare the situation in Appalachia to countries like ones where I have lived and worked—Nicaragua, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. For example, just as foreign interests control gold, bauxite and sugar production in the Dominican Republic, absentee landowners own most of the timber and coal rights in West Virginia (https://www.wvpublic.org/news/2013-12-11/who-owns-west-virginia). My siblings and I grew up learning about those kinds of injustices from Dad, almost the same way we learned to pick up litter, plant trees and recycle tin cans. I still find myself taken off-guard when I hear people talk about how poor people’s poorness is because they’re lazy. I’ve known better than that since I was five.

I am profoundly grateful that I was able to travel to the United States, thanks mainly to the massive vaccination campaign that has started to reduce the ravages of COVID there. Mom, all my siblings and their spouses are fully vaccinated, or nearly so. But back here in Costa Rica, things aren’t looking so good. The new COVID variants from England, Brazil and South Africa are all present and COVID cases are skyrocketing. The Health Ministry has already shut down all non-essential businesses. We aren’t as stretched as Brazil, India and South Africa, but Costa Rica’s public health system, one of the strongest and best organized in Central America, is moving towards collapse.

The Costa Rican government is working hard to get people vaccinated. Over 50% of those 58 and older have received their first dose and 24% have received both (https://www.ccss.sa.cr/web/coronavirus/vacunacion). But that will not be enough. The pharmaceutical companies are making it hard for poorer countries to get vaccine doses. Dad would be clear about this. He recognized injustice when he saw it. We need to be the people who step up and call for justice. It is who God, and my Dad, have taught us to be.

Thank you for all you do!

In Christ,

Mark

P.S. You can keep track of our work in Costa Rica by checking out my blog, Faith Food and Family (https://faithfoodfamilycostarica.blogspot.com/).

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1 https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/24/opinion/covid-vaccines-poor-countries.html


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