500,000-plus.

That’s where the United States’ COVID-19 death toll stands. It’s a staggering figure, and one that Lakelands counties have contributed to, albeit thankfully on a smaller scale.

As of this writing, Greenwood County’s death toll was 140, Abbeville’s was 28, Saluda was 37, Laurens tallied 135 and McCormick County had logged 16 deaths.

Who would have thought that our great nation with its untold resources would have reached the half-million mark? But we have, and it’s not over yet. Vaccines are getting in the arms of the people and there does appear to be an overall decline in the pandemic’s reach nationally; still, the numbers are mind-boggling.

As tragic as any death is, the pandemic has taken many people down death’s path in a most cruel way. All too often, people have taken ill and gone to a hospital, never again to be seen or touched by a spouse or loved one in person again.

Moreover, COVID-19 is not so selective. It knows no age boundaries. Sure, people of certain ages and who have certain preexisting conditions are likely more susceptible, but this is not a virus that claims the lives of those who — how to put this gently? — perhaps should know their years are limited and should, therefore, have their affairs in order.

Case after case after case has been a sad tale of people who wind up in the hospital and not only do they not come out alive, they also do not have their affairs in order. And it was too late to fix that once they entered the hospital and spent their last days on a ventilator.

That is what drove us to prepare what we hope are helpful stories that we published in Monday’s edition. The topic is hardly fun or uplifting, but it’s a hard truth people must face.

Death and all it brings upon those left behind is a terrible tragedy at any time. But more tragic is when those left behind are left with little or no direction from their loved ones. Wills, powers of attorney, financial planning, access to bank accounts, avoiding probate court — these are things people can take care of well before their sudden demise, whether from COVID-19 or something else. But during the pandemic, this has become an increasingly necessary point to drive home.

We all like to think “it can’t happen to me,” but that’s denial or, at the very least, wrong thinking.

If you turned the page because the subject matter in our stories was too depressing, think how much more depressing it will be if you leave this life without easing the burden your death places on those you love.

The stories are still available to read online, so please do read them if you have not already done so. And then start getting your affairs in order. It will be great if the pandemic comes and goes without affecting you and your family, but it will also be great to have taken care of that business for the more distant future.

It’s not morbid; in fact, getting your affairs in order truly is an act of love.