An Untimely Death

Portraits, scratchboard
Daniel Kent Lehenbauer 1959 – 2021

There were several events of note happening on January 20, 2021. One bringing hope, the other, was pure tragedy. Joe Biden was inaugurated as President of the United States and my brother, Kent, died of COVID-19 pneumonia. I do blame the administration of Donald Trump for treating COVID-19 as a public relations problem, and not the pandemic it is. Policy leaders in 2020 caused too many folks to dismiss the necessity of taking COVID-19 seriously. I heard several people say, “If I get the virus, I don’t think I’ll get very sick.” Even if that was true, s/he was not giving a thought to a more vulnerable person to whom they could carry the virus. Kent must have received a heavy dose of the virus during an event. Having difficulty breathing, he entered the hospital’s ER and had a bed in a hallway for several days before being transferred to the ICU where he spent the final days of his life intubated, fearful and alone. It was not a good way to die.

His dedicated caregivers were overworked and probably exhausted; constantly in danger of catching and spreading the virus themselves due to lack of safety supplies. The CDC as of today, April 20, 2021, reports 545,750 plus Kent’s death, on death certificates listing COVID-19 as the cause or a contributing factor. The vaccine, once herd immunity is reached, will allow us to return to public places. Does the safety of the community play into a person’s refusal to be vaccinated? The last administration did a great deal of harm to reputable organizations that we rely upon during a health crisis. Would folks refusing to be vaccinated also have refused the polio vaccine? How does it benefit media outlets to put out false reports on the pandemic? There are a lot of unanswered questions belonging to this tragedy.

This wonderful man, Kent, loved by many, is gone in circumstances that could have been avoided. He was one of those guys who paid attention, made you laugh and created fun. He went to the trouble of hiding lots of stuff (including his bowling ball w/ initials) in his friend’s mulch pile; covering his brother-in-law’s name on the coffee mug with masking tape after being chided for drinking from another’s mug; acting as my re-po man when 2 paintings stolen from an Aspen gallery were located in Santa Fe. The stories are many, as were his interests. A regret is that I didn’t do a portrait of Kent during his life. Here I attempt to show not only his handsome face, but his love of life; the open road, biking, water, airplanes, the Sandia Mountains (where his ashes will be scattered) to name a few. The pandemic has provided many lessons, primarily, take nothing for granted. Please get vaccinated. Don’t spread the virus. Perhaps Kent’s untimely death will save others from the same kind of death.