On the outside, Linda McBride faces with practicality the work she must complete to get 54 tall panels put up along the east brick wall of The Art Center on north Seventh Street.

But her shoulders want to curve inward and sometimes they shake. On the inside, McBride is weary to tears.

“My wonderful aunt died last week,” she said, trying to control tears so she could continue to speak. “She was 98 and three quarters … she was like a second mother.”

Merrily Wallech “was a star” both on the theater stage and in people’s lives, McBride shared.

Wallech is among the more than 302,000 people who have died from COVID-19 in the United States as of Tuesday. Of those, 89 died in Mesa County.

“There are tears on this,” McBride said, motioning to what will be the Rose Petal COVID Memorial on east side of The Art Center, 1803 N. Seventh St.

The memorial has 54 vinyl canvas panels each covered in a rose petal pattern and a grid of 4,680 small squares, each with a tiny silver circle inside to represent a person who has died from COVID-19.

As cars speed by on Seventh Street and winter breezes swirl around, McBride wants the panels to move in memory of those who are no longer alive because of the pandemic.

The memorial is meant to “unite Americans in the gravity of how many people have died. … To feel the grief,” McBride said.

It was an idea that started to take shape for the local artist in May, and by the time she recruited 30 people to help her place the silver dots on the panels, more than 120,000 people had died from the virus.

McBride realized she was going to need more than the 26 panels she originally planned. Even now, with 54 panels, more are needed.

People have donated materials, expertise and a great deal of time to help her create the memorial, she said.

The volunteers who placed the silver dots by hand using nibbed pens dipped in thick ink even did the work in silence to honor the people who have died, McBride said.

Those silver dots will catch in the lavender light that will flood over the memorial 24/7 and “bring some light into dark times,” she said.

A dedication for the memorial will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, in The Art Center’s main parking lot.

Those who attend are asked to remain in their cars during the brief ceremony that will include poetry and music. After the ceremony, small groups of visitors will be ushered down the sidewalk to quietly view the memorial.

Visitors can bring rose petals to scatter and battery-powered votives to place at the memorial.

Four panels have not been completed with silver dots and those interested in helping with them or who would like to leave a post about a loved one can do so at the memorial’s Facebook page: facebook.com/RosePetalsCOVIDMemorial.

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