After his 81-year-old father died of the coronavirus on Tuesday following nearly a week of isolation at a nursing home, Courtney Farr could not contain his frustration with the attitudes of people in his rural Kansas town who've downplayed the severity of the pandemic and railed against wearing masks for months.
So when it was time to write the obituary for his father, Marvin James Farr, the son slammed those in Scott City, Kansas who refuse to wear a mask to prevent the spread of the virus that killed his dad and more than 275,000 other Americans.
“He was born into an America recovering from the Great Depression and about to face World War 2, times of loss and sacrifice difficult for most of us to imagine,” the obituary said. “He died in a world where many of his fellow Americans refuse to wear a piece of cloth on their face to protect one another.”
Mr Farr's father died after six days in isolation inside the Park Lane Nursing Home. Mr Farr did not hide his frustration when he penned the obituary describing the days his father spent struggling with the virus without the comfort of familiar faces.
“He died in a room not his own, being cared for by people dressed in confusing and frightening ways,” the obituary said. “He died with covid-19, and his final days were harder, scarier and lonelier than necessary. He was not surrounded by friends and family.”
The passionate obituary began to spread widely on social media this week after his son posted it on Facebook and the Kansas City Star reported it on Thursday. The memorial joins the ranks of several other obituaries for covid-19 victims to criticise people, including elected officials, for failing to take the pandemic seriously enough.
Like many towns in the rural Midwest, Scott City, Kansas, has remained distant from the worst coronavirus hot spots, reporting 374 coronavirus cases and five deaths. But now that the coronavirus has spread beyond densely populated cities to much smaller communities, Mr Farr said local anti-mask sentiments have made it even more difficult to bear the loss of his father.
“I've spent most of this year hearing people from my hometown talk about how this disease isn't real, isn't that bad, only kills old people, masks don't work,” he said on Facebook Wednesday. “And because of the prevalence of those attitudes, my father's death was so much harder on him, his family and his caregivers than it should have been.”
Marvin James Farr was born May 23, 1939, in Modoc, Kansas. He graduated from Kansas State University in 1968. Following an interest in science, he considered studying to be a mortician, but decided instead to work as a farmer and veterinarian in a small town in western Kansas, his obituary said.
“The science that guided his professional life has been disparaged and abandoned by so many of the same people who depended on his knowledge to care for their animals and to raise their food,” his son wrote.
Courtney Farr said he was comforted by all of the people who shared the obituary and shared their own experiences with the pandemic.
“Often when we experience loss, pain or trauma, we feel so alone,” he wrote on Facebook on Thursday. “And there's such incredible power to learning that you are not, that someone else also knows.”
A small number of people who read the obituary chafed at the political message Courtney Farr included in the tribute. The son said that message was “perfectly reflective of our relationship, something that a stranger would never understand.”
Courtney Farr said he and his father loved to talk politics together, and they often disagreed. They would spend road trips arguing over the news. The rest of the family sometimes balked at their squabbles, which Mr Farr said drove them “justifiably nuts.” Their wives even banned the men from talking politics in the car if they were all riding together. But Marvin James Farr always enjoyed their debates, his son said on Facebook Thursday.
“For me, there's an extra layer to his obituary,” Mr Farr said. “That it is political and that it will cause debate is fitting, it demonstrates the relationship between its subject and author.”