From inside the ‘Cocoon’ – Fluttering away

As the COVID-19 statstics in Ireland continue to decline, rules for ‘cocooners’ are being eased on a phased basis and the horrid term ‘cocooning’ is falling out of use.

After 100 days we take tiny little steps back to a new normal. A ‘normal’ that is as yet unknown and possibly fraught with danger. As the ‘lockdown’ is phased out I will end this series of posts with some reflections on the rough road travelled.

A dead butterfly – Image Wikimedia Commons

The biggest tragedy is the loss of the 1,715 men women and young adults in the Republic of Ireland who did not make it through this awful time. They range in age from 17 to 103. The loss of each one is a tragedy and a huge void in the lives of those who knew and loved them. I knew and loved a number of them. Across the water in the UK, so connected to us through our diaspora, the statistics are overwhelming – to date, 42,461 people have died – an incredible number. This includes 545 people who have died in Northern Ireland. These are awful numbers to try to deal with.

The artist Juan Lucena painted this beautifully poignant image in remembrance of those who had to leave without saying goodbye.

LllCovid-19: This painting was done in honor of all the departed grandparents who were unable to say goodbye to their grandchildren. Credits: Juan Lucena , Spanish painter
“What will we do without them?”
By Juan Lucena In memory of the grandparents who died without been able to say goodbye to their grandchildren.

The plight of our elderly in residential care was shocking. Over 50% of our deaths happened within these ‘safe havens’. This was an immense failure of our state – and not only ours- the scandal was repeated in other jurisdictions with some rhetoric containing the chilling phrase- ‘they were going to die anyway’. Dying alone without the presence of family members and without the comforting support of funeral rituals has been a huge trauma of these times, particularly here in Ireland where such rites of passage are a very important part of our lives. I will never forget the image of a lady watching the funeral of her husband of 60 years on an iphone.

One of the rawest of moments of these 100 days came from Dorothy Duffy who wrote a poem honoring her sister Rose who had died alone in a nursing home as a result of COVID 19. Rose and Dorothy are of Irish descent, living in England.

Audio recording of Dorothy’s powerful poem in honour of her beloved sister who died alone in a nursing home.

Listen, if you can, to Dorothy’s heartfelt words. This is the transcript of her poem.

My sister is not a statistic 

Tomorrow, when the latest Deathometer of Covid is announced
in sonorous tones,
Whilst all the bodies still mount and curl towards the middle of the curve
Heaped one atop and alongside the other
My sister will be among those numbers, among the throwaway lines
Among the platitudes and lowered eyes,
an older person with underlying health conditions,
A pitiful way to lay rest the bare bones of a life.

My sister is not a statistic 

Her underlying conditions were
Love
Kindness
Belief in the essential goodness of mankind
Uproarious laughter
Forgiveness
Compassion
A storyteller
A survivor
A comforter
A force of nature
And so much more

My sister is not a statistic 

She died without the soft touch of a loved one’s hand
Without the feathered kiss upon her forehead
Without the muted murmur of familiar family voices gathered around her bed,
Without the gentle roar of laughter that comes with memories recalled
Evoked from a time that already seems distant, when we were connected by the simplicity
of touch, of voice, of presence.

My sister is not a statistic 

She was a woman who spanned the seven ages.
A mother
A grandmother
A great grandmother
A sister
A Friend
An aunt
A carer
A giver

My sister is not a statistic

And so, she joins the mounting thousands

They are not statistics on the Deathometer of Covid

They are the wives, mothers, children, fathers, sisters, brothers,
The layers of all our loved ones
If she could, believe me when I say, she would hold every last one of your loved ones, croon
to and comfort them and say – you were loved.
Whilst we who have been left behind mourn deep, keening the loss, the injustice, the rage.
One day we will smile and laugh again, we will remember with joy that, once, we shared a
life, we knew joy and survived sadness.

You are my sister…….. and I love you.

Copyright Dorothy Duffy 2020

‘Sister’ can be replaced by Father, Mother, Son, Daughter, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, Neighbour, Friend. Each one a terrible loss to the world.

The shock of the surge of deaths and infection was numbing. But there was light. The heartscalding narrative of those 100 days was wrapped in the warmth of the people, thousands of them, who made life possible and bearable in these awful times.

From refuse collectors to bus drivers, from shop assistants to food producers, from laboratory staff to cleaners, they all put their own lives on the line to keep us safe. Many of them too, among the lowest paid in our society, yet our lives depended on them. Members of our police force, An Garda Siochana, and our postal delivery workers made themselves available to check on vulnerable people, deliver groceries, get prescriptions and generally keep ‘an eye’ that everyone was OK, in particular those living in remote locations.

A Hummingbird-Hawk moth explores a Verbena flower. (Image Creative Commons Attribution: Jerzy Strzelecki)

As we begin anew, we are facing into the unknown. We are not fully aware of the full impact of the pandemic lockdown, What will the fallout be? What emotional price has been paid by people of all ages, from small children to workers, to our most elderly?

For now we focus on the upsides. Friends and relatives who had drifted away in other directions over the years made contact with surprise phone calls, lovely cards, emails, gifts of books, videos of bluebell woods, regular WhatsApp messages. The weekly Zoom meetings with my Toastmasters Club were a real life saver for me too.

And the biggest winner of all seems to be nature – unhindered by pollution from vehicles and aircraft, birds have been singing loudly all day long, skies are bluer, bees are busier, flowers are blooming better than ever, and best of all, more people have time to enjoy the show!

Roses – whose scent and beauty greeted me on my first day outside. (Image Thesilvervoice)

We may now travel within our county, businesses are opening up again. Those of us who are particularly vulnerable, and are not yet ready to test out the ventilator equipment in our hospital intensive care units, will proceed with caution, holding fast to the two-metre distancing, hand washing and face coverings and keeping a close eye on the infection rates.

Clematis Ville de Lyon getting ready to burst forth (Image Thesilvervoice)

Stay safe. Mind yourself. Mind others.

Acknowledgements

Liveline, RTE Radio 1

Dorothy Duffy for her wonderful poem.

Juan Lucena for his poignant painting.

9 Comments

Filed under Covid-19, Ireland, Living with COPD

9 responses to “From inside the ‘Cocoon’ – Fluttering away

  1. sarthure

    A powerful and poignant piece of writing. And that poem! Thanks for sharing your words and bringing all those reflections together.

  2. Thank you for your beautiful blog post. keep safe

  3. A very moving and poignant post stay safe X

  4. Congratulations! Your blog has been included in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    https://thatmomentintime-crissouli.blogspot.com/2020/06/friday-fossicking-26th-jun-2020.html

    Thank you, Chris

  5. Lovely post Angela and one that shames those of us that tend to wave an airy hand at the matter. Reblogging.

  6. Reblogged this on Back On The Rock and commented:
    A rare reblog which shames those of us who glance at the Covid-19 statistics without considering those affected.

  7. Angela, I referred this post to an American podcaster Steve Runner. I’ve been following him for many years. You might like to listen to this episode in which he refers to it https://steverunner.libsyn.com/splendid-isolation-day-111

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