SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Celebrating the holidays could be difficult for many families grieving the loss of loved ones this year because of COVID-19. That’s why one group, in partnership with the South Dakota ELCA Synod, is hosting a memorial on Thanksgiving to recognize each victim of COVID-19.
These are the faces of just a few lives lost in South Dakota due to COVID-19. As we enter the holiday season, more than 800 South Dakota families will have an empty seat at the table. On the lawn near the state capitol building tomorrow morning, there will be an empty chair representing each life taken by COVID-19.
“We picked Thanksgiving as a way to symbolize how many empty chairs there would be around tables in South Dakota on the holiday,” Pastor Jonathan Steiner, Director for Evangelical Mission of SD Synod, said.
“There’s always an empty chair across the country. This year, there’s a lot more and we really just want to make sure those people, those families, they’re honored. They have their moment to grieve, appropriately, and that the entire state can grieve with them,” Joseph, an event organizer with Stop the Spread SD, said.
During a time of so much tragedy, ‘Stop the Spread SD’ and churches helping with the event want to bring recognition to the faces behind the numbers and provide comfort for their families.
“People aren’t even able to have proper funerals right now and this is definitely a tribute to their loved ones and to their families during this time of celebration when they haven’t been able to properly say goodbye,” Ashley, an event organizer with Stop the Spread SD, said.
“Funerals is kind of something that’s belonged to the church historically and comforting grieving families, being with them. For us, our belief is a promise of resurrection in the middle of death, that God is with us when things are very dark. So, for me, it made sense that we can show up and support families as they are grieving, but also that we can look to hope for the future,” Steiner said.
The South Dakota Synod is taking donations to help cover costs of the event. Pastor Steiner says they haven’t decided yet where any leftover money will go, but they will make sure it goes towards a COVID related cause. Event organizers are discouraging any foot traffic at the memorial. If you’d like to see the event, you can drive by the memorial or watch their live stream from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Thursday.