A couple of weeks ago I was on live radio doing an interview about Seasons of Sorrow. The interview went well, I think, and I was able to speak about Nick, about the book, and about my hope that it will bless and serve others as they pass through their own seasons of grief and loss. As soon as I hung up, I sat down at my computer and saw that I had received an email to this effect: “I am listening to you on the radio. Lately many people are suddenly dying including young athletes on the field. Many doctors are coming out and realizing it is due to the Covid vaccine. Did Nick get the Covid vaccine or have to take it for school?” That was just one of many—many emails and Facebook comments and YouTube responses that have asked, suggested, or assumed the same.
I have no interest in debating vaccines or discussing what the medical consequences of taking one may be. That is a whole different subject and one poorly suited for this medium. But what I do have interest in is helping people understand how to serve families who are enduring the loss of a loved one. I want to speak on their behalf and say that very often pressing to know the cause of death or speculating about it is going to offend or hurt those who are grieving. Very seldom will it benefit them in any way.
Let’s establish two matters, one pertaining to your task and one to your rights.
Your task. Your task when you encounter an individual or family enduring a time of sorrow is to serve and bless them. This means it falls to you to do your utmost to be as helpful to them as possible and it falls to you to avoid doing or saying anything that might add to their pain. You are to help rather than hinder them in their grief.
Your right. You have no right to know how another person died. You may have some natural curiosity. You may have some natural fear. But you have no entitlement to that information. If it is not your loved one, then it is not your business. You can carry out your task of serving and blessing the family without knowing the details. And if you are not present in their lives, you can still pray faithfully and earnestly without knowing a single fact about it.
Of course there may be times the family chooses to make the cause of death public and there may be times when it is a matter of public record. But there are many other occasions when the family chooses not to reveal that information, and it’s usually safe to assume they have their reasons for doing so. This could be because the death involved suicide or a drug overdose and they feel a level of shame or regret; it could be that the death was especially traumatic and they are protecting one another by not recounting its details; it could simply be that they are private people and have chosen to keep that information personal rather than making it public. Or maybe they fear that the death would be “cheapened” if it was tied to a cause, agenda, or political issue.
Do you really want to ask a brother to tell about the day he saw his sister’s life ebb away before his eyes? Do you really consider it fair that you would ask a mother to recount how she found her son’s body after he took his life? Is it okay that your curiosity is now satisfied after pestering a heartbroken dad to divulge the most painful moments of his life? Of course not. Of course it isn’t.
When you feel that sense of curiosity, it is worth asking yourself: Why do you want to know how that person died? Is it to better serve the family? Is it to be more sympathetic or more helpful? If not that, then what is the purpose in asking? How will that knowledge better equip you to serve them? If it’s mere curiosity, you should save the family the sorrow of asking them to recount their most painful moment. You should especially save the family the pain of pressing deeper when it is clear they are not interested in divulging details. Let the family take the lead and ask no more than they are comfortable sharing.
As for us, the answer people are looking for is this: no. No, Nick’s death had nothing to do with a COVID-19 vaccine and this is easily proven by the date of his death: November 3, 2020. The first vaccine to receive Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, Pfizer-BioNTech, was not approved until mid-December, with the other vaccines following in 2021. Hence, Nick was not vaccinated and could not have been. The answer has always been as simple as a Google search.
As I expressed a year ago, an autopsy determined that his cause of death was “presumed cardiac dysrhythmia of uncertain etiology.” In other words, for causes that remain unknown, Nick’s heart very suddenly and unexpectedly slipped into an unsustainable rhythm which in turn led to full cardiac arrest. This is a presumed diagnosis, which is the best that can be done in such cases. Subsequent genetic testing that was extremely thorough turned up no other significant leads. Hence, this is as much of a diagnosis as we are ever likely to have. We have learned over the past two years that this cause of death is neither unprecedented nor as rare as we might think. Even before there was a COVID-19 vaccine there were people whose hearts suddenly stopped—even people who were young and who otherwise appeared to be perfectly healthy. Such is life and death in a broken and fallen world.
And so I urge you, when God’s providence directs that you can be present in the aftermath of a great loss, that you refrain from pressing, refrain from insisting that you should know information that is otherwise not available to you. Your task is to love, to serve, to care, and to bless, and you can do all of this even when the cause of death remains unknown or uncertain.