Is this our chance to make a real contribution for future generations? Because if not now, then probably it will never happen and so many lives will have been sacrificed. And for what? It’s now, before a ‘new normal’ resumes, we need to be thinking ahead on what we can each do, because there’s a moral imperative for us all to make it happen.

It’s been a while, a long time since I published any musings even though I write often . But now I feel a need to put some thoughts out there and maybe some of it will resonate with you.  Yes. Our world has changed. And when Covid-19 hits closer to home than reports on the news or social media, it becomes more than unsettling, the realisation that we now have the opportunity to make real long term change to create a more just, more compassionate world strikes a chord somewhere deep inside of  me which gives me hope and, as importantly, courage!

Covid-19 has changed everything. How we can live and how we might die – unexpectedly.  Across the world we have seen the lives of people we don’t know taken and through the media, many stories of personal loss. Covid-19 and non-related illnesses have brought us face to face with the harsh reality of not being able to say goodbye to loved ones and the loneliness of not being able to support one another as we’ve always done.

A very close friend’s Auntie died of Covid-19 and her funeral was live-streamed which in itself is something that I am not, as yet comfortable with. As I watched and saw not only the empty church, but one of the daughters stroking the head of her young son as the priest spoke and in the row behind, a father put his arms around the two teenage children seated either side of him my heart went out to them all.  A sad day under any circumstance but during the current Covid-19 Government Restrictions, even sadder. The family had already discussed bringing everyone together at a time when everyone could, as the family said ‘look each other in the eye’ and reminisce, talk about the impact their mum, their granny had on people’s lives.  Because, here in Ireland, that’s what we do, as someone said to me recently, ‘we do death well‘ because being together after a burial or cremation goes a long way in helping us deal with our grief. Gatherings held in the homes of families, in local hotels and often the pub give  us a safe space in which to share our grief. The all too simple act of recounting stories over tea and sandwiches, sharing memories over a few pints gives us permission to cry together, shed tears. This is how we begin to come to terms with loss. Now under the restrictions of Covid-19, this we can no longer do. Instead, it is our front line medics and care workers who make sure no-one faces that final journey alone as they put themselves at risk. In time though, people will once again come together and together we will heal.

Only when Covid-19 comes into your life, into your family or of someone close to you, does reality hit with a ferocity that really hurts. Only then and it is only as this pandemic has become more intense, it is touching the lives more people and as it does, it is taking the lives of people we know and love. I have sisters in the UK and in New Zealand, two of us with ‘underlying conditions’, two sisters ‘cocooning’ as best they can.  Three countries.  Three different government strategies in place. Of course I am worried and know spending time considering conspiracy theories is not going to help.  Nothing like this has happened in my lifetime and I doubt in yours and hopefully it will not happen again, but right now, we don’t know really know where this insidious virus has come from or when a vaccine will become available to help protect us. There are bigger and far better brains than mine working on that, on the science to develop vaccines for Covid-19 and working out how to keep our world turning. It has made countries throughout the world think of their citizens first, though global collaboration and a strategy for long term prevention and control of such diseases is essential.In countries like New Zealand, we have seen real leadership in action as Jacinda Ardern, their fantastic PM through her daily broadcasts talks directly to each and every part of society there.  Addressing their fears, reassuring them, whilst all the time being pragmatic and realistic.  Being human.  And our own Government here has pulled together well too. In an environment where so much is unknown and there is always room to do more, they’ve communicated well and as well as I think they can right now.

For most of us, the most constructive thing we can do is to think of others by isolating ourselves, it is the only sure way of stopping the potential spread of this deadly virus. And in Ireland, we’re social creatures, so having our lives put on hold somehow goes against our natural instincts. But there is no justification in feeling hard done by.  Or feeling bored or frustrated at not being able to get outside. Before Covid-19 infiltrated our world, time was the one commodity we never seemed to have enough of, so now many of us have the privilege of choosing how we spent it. Financially, everyone is worried, but you know, we’ll come through this if we all continue to pull together.   This isn’t the first time we’ve learnt to manage with very little and yes, having ‘enough’ really is more than enough. We can escape into books, films, videos. Being kinder to ourselves and if living with others, try our very best to do what is right.  However difficult some situations are – and I’m not being naïve here, how we face this could be the difference between life and death as putting our own short term ‘wants’ increases the risk for others. The degree to which everyone continues to observe the restrictions lessens the risk to our front line medics and essential workers and respects the enormous personal sacrifices they continue to make every day to keep us safe.  They don’t have the luxury of #stayinghometosavelives instead, they put their lives on the line every day.

The last funeral I was at shook me up.  It was late January and was for a woman close to my own age. A sudden death.  As the invited celebrant with less than 48 hours to talk to her daughter and get to ‘know’ her mother, I listened as she told me stories and gave me insights into her mother, glimpses of how she was as a ‘granny’ to her own children, of her working life and how she liked to spend her free time which enabled me to tell her mother’s story through a ceremony which provided a source of comfort to people. The ceremony was held In a crematorium where there is only a short window for funerals so words matter.  Being together matters and whatever the circumstances of death, unexpected as with Covid-19, sudden through natural causes or expected after long illness, how we celebrate a person’s life gives meaning and helps the healing.  It struck a chord with me for many reasons, liviing alone, having dodged a few bullets and another one just recently too, I  am thankful now to be well and to have had my surgery just before Christmas.  Whatever the future is to bring, I want to make sure my time is spent making a difference and on what matters most.

Relationships Matter. Connection Matters. So what of handshakes, hugs and human touch?  Will we be greeting one another with ‘Namaste’ with our hands clasped and bowing our heads?  Will we be able to stop ourselves from giving people hugs, instead holding a symbolic hand to our hearts, tilting our heads and offering an almost apologetic smile? And for those who like me live alone, whose ‘blood family’ is overseas and whose family of friends here will begin to reconnect, is this to be the end of the human touch?  I don’t believe it is, but it will take us time, to trust ourselves, to believe that we are once again truly safe.

And what of technology?  It’s helped many people keep in touch, feel connected, opened up a world of opportunity as we rethink how we live our lives now and into the future. It’s allowed people to attend weddings, as well as funerals in different parts of the world.  Of course it’s not the same as ‘being there’ but it is better than not.  Technology is opening up different ways of working.  Companies who previously didn’t really like their employees working from home, have learnt to trust more.  Crucially right now, it is enabling scientists throughout the world to share data FAST.  To develop different ways of producing essential PPE for where it is needed within our respective countries and in the process helping keep some businesses going and people employed. Fundraisers which began by raising money to get food to front line hospital staff https://feedtheheroes.com have in the process created something much bigger, as they feed our heroes, they are keeping more people afloat, from restaurants who cook the food, to growers who supply.  It’s a real altruistic win/win.  A trend of creative thinking I hope continues. If businesses can continue to offer flexibility to enable people to work differently, to become more a part of their local community which happens naturally when you spend some of your time home based, if people continue shopping locally,this will go a long way not only to repay small businesses who are working so hard to provide essential services now, it will help the essential rebuilding of our local communities.  Community is everything.  Being part of a community means no-one is left alone. People helping people is and always has been the social glue which holds us all together.

‘No-one will be left behind’ the words still clear in my head from an early government broadcast.  Our government can only do so much, we too have a role to play. With Covid-19 everything has changed.  It needed to and it will never be the same again.  How we live in our world, how we help fix it matters because through simply being ‘human’ will make all the difference to the world we leave to future generations.  We just didn’t take it seriously enough.  Now we must and it’s going to be a long, often painful process. Eventually, it will come right and the kindness and compassion we are seeing if we’re open to it, will go on to give us the foundations for a better world, as we really remember those who are putting themselves at risk for us now.  It is up to us to demand even more of our governments before too much – and possibly too soon – begins to function again.

Right now though, my heart aches for people in abusive relationships, who may previously saw going out to work as a way of escaping; and children who are in danger. My heart aches for people too frightened to go to the hospital for essential treatment of non-Covid-19 conditions. For our elders in nursing homes.  For care workers who have not had sufficient supplies of protective clothing. For everyone who cannot see or be with those they love.  And knowing everyone, everywhere, throughout the world is feeling utterly helpless. My heart aches seeing sadness and grief across the world, as death upon death is recorded, especially of front line hospital workers, many who have done all they can to comfort patients until they drew their last breath.  Our world could not continue as it was.   Some say this is the pain we must endure to allow a kinder, more compassionate world to emerge, which it will. Now though, it is war under a different guise.  In poorer countries, millions will die, whilst more affluent countries look after their own first.  The need for global support, a global strategy, leadership and collaboration on a scale hitherto thought impossible has never been more urgent. And this needs to happen fast, to seize that gap as the virus becomes more under control, before any degree of ‘regular life’ becomes possible.

Only through critical thinking now, can a viable, inclusive sustainable plan of balanced economic recovery take shape, a plan which has at its heart the well-being of all of its citizens can a better world emerge.   No amount of money merits the sacrifice of human beings. The war being fought with this virus, because that is what it is, is ‘Economics versus Humanity’ and there can be no winners without recognition that everyone matters.  No-one should be left behind. No-one must be left behind. We have an individual and collective moral responsibility to make sure no-one gets left behind.

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