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'Pandemics Stone' visits Cape Cod as a symbol of grief and healing

Jennette Barnes
Lewis Randa, left, director of The Peace Abbey Foundation, places his hand on the hand of Marcy Jacobs, whose husband died of COVID-19. They participated in the Global Pandemics Stonewalk in Hyannis on Thursday.

Volunteers pulled a huge, headstone-like granite memorial through the streets of Hyannis and Falmouth this week in remembrance of pandemic victims worldwide.

“Pulling it was such an experience for me, and I feel so much lighter somehow,” said Gail Melix, who worked as a nurse on the Cape for many years until her retirement.

“What's really stirring in my heart is that we are all here together,” she said. “We do not have to do this alone.”

Melix was one of about a dozen people, including a few Hyannis firefighters, pulling the 5,000 pounds of stone and rigging in Barnstable. The processions began at Cape Cod Hospital on Thursday and Falmouth Hospital on Friday.

Jennette Barnes
Participants left flowers on the Global Pandemics Stone in Hyannis on Thursday.

Laid flat on a caisson of sorts, the stone is about six feet long and engraved with the words, “Global pandemics: A touchstone for humanity.”

At some points on the Hyannis walk, the group strained under the weight as they moved uphill toward Barnstable Town Hall. Two onlookers joined in.

Cassandra Hobgood, a psychiatrist at Cape Cod Hospital, said the effort was worth it.

“This means so much to me, because it helps me process my own grief,” she said.
The Hyannis walk ended with a speaking program at Barnstable Town Hall.

Marcy Jacobs of Mansfield spoke of losing her husband, Keith Jacobs, to COVID-19 two years ago.

Jennette Barnes
Participants approach Barnstable Town Hall with the Global Pandemics Stone.

“And though today is an extremely hard day for myself and my family, I know he's looking down at this beautiful stone,” she said.

Jacobs said that as the United States prepares to mark one million deaths from COVID-19 in the coming weeks, this is a time to reflect.

“So many deaths were preventable,” she said.

Melix, who said she is Manomet Wampanoag, explained the meaning of a wampum belt draped across the stone, in remembrance of the burden of disease on Indigenous peoples.

The Peace Abbey Foundation in Sherborn created the stone as a mobile memorial to people who have died in all pandemics around the globe.

The caisson was decorated with flags of the world.

Organizers said the exertion of pulling the stone represents the burden of pandemics and the healing power of being together in grief.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.