Tag Archives: Covid-19

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.

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Filed under Covid-19, Ireland, Living with COPD

From inside the Cocoon: Emerging

There was much surprise (and joy) that the Irish Government has gone much further than had been anticipated in easing the Covid-19 restrictions. From June 8, 2020, we can now travel much further, meet up with a small number of others outside, or even in our homes. Many shops, playgrounds, services will reopen.

File:Burnet Moth cocoon (39663674863).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Cocoon of the Burnet Moth (Image Wikimedia Commons)

As the numbers of COVID -19 deaths and new infections has continued to drop, the discourse in recent weeks has been divisive – younger people wondering why they should be socially restricted in order to ‘save’ older people; daily debates about whether health is more important than the economy – a general clamour to return to ‘normality’.

Those who stuck by the guidelines often paid a huge price. They missed the dying hours of loved ones; they missed funerals, even in the most tragic circumstances. Last week the funeral of a 5 year old who drowned took place in accordance with Government guidelines with only a small number of family members present. These, sometimes very cruel guidelines, will without doubt leave an indelible mark on families up and down the country.

We, together, all of us, have done a good job in suppressing the virus. The excruciating numbers of dead and new infections have tapered into single figures with no deaths at all on some days, and a consistently low number of new infections. The advice of medical experts has worked. The sacrifices of many who followed the tough guidelines has worked. Some however, have paid a great price as they have lost jobs, lost their businesses, businesses that will never open their doors again, lost the childcare that enabled them to go to work, lost the essential supports for special needs children and those who need care in the home. So much loss.

We are extraordinarily grateful to everyone, man woman and child, who has played a part in getting us here.

A Cinnibar Moth emerges from a Cocoon (Image Wikimedia Commons)

Those of us inside the dreadful ‘cocoon’ may now emerge in a meaningful way. The 2 metre physical distancing remains in place and wearing face covering is recommended, including for a ‘small number’ of visitors to our homes. (It has yet to be determined how to enjoy coffee and cake while having full face covering.)

I will be claiming my two metres for the foreseeable future and venturing out only for exercise and to marvel at beautiful crowd-free places.

File:Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae).jpg
A Cinnibar Moth (image Wikimedia Commons)

No other human being has crossed my threshold for 91 days now. Personal responsibility will be the order of the day. I have no plans to let my 91 days inside this ‘cocoon’ go to waste.

Context

Here in Ireland, everyone who is compromised by health issues and those aged over 70 must stay at home during the Covid-19 Pandemic with food and medication being delivered by family members or teams of volunteers. This is called ‘Cocooning’ and this is a series posts from inside the cocoon.

STAY SAFE. STAY LOCAL.

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Filed under Covid-19, Ireland

From inside the ‘Cocoon’ – Stepping Up

In week 7 of almost total isolation during Covid-19, it takes enormous willpower to keep going, to even get up out of bed, to go about a daily life that is often monotonous and peppered with bouts of sadness, anxiety for the future and about the safety of family members. 

One of my coping strategies in the early days was to keep doing my daily walk of about and hour, enjoying and observing nature. Then we went into ‘lockdown’, I had to stay indoors and my walk was gone!

After a few days moping and raging about lost freedom, I decided that I was NOT going to give up my walk. So each morning I lace up my trainers, put on my headphones, tune into the Ronan Collins Show on the radio, and head off for my daily walk – inside my apartment.

The trainers are most important. (Image thesilvervoice)

And this is what I do – with all doors and windows open wide, I set off on my circuit of kitchen, bedrooms, hall and the living room, a route of less than 100 paces. The aim is to keep walking for an hour and try to achieve about 6,000 steps daily.

Although I already have an app on my phone that counts steps, I downloaded another that calculates distance as well. Imagine my surprise on discovering that I am walking in excess of 4 kilometers each day!

The daily steps and kilometers walked from my phone app. (Image thesilvervoice)

To add some purpose and meaning to life inside this ‘cocoon’, I have decided to contribute €1 to the Age Action COVID-19 Hardship Fund for every kilometre I walk.

The amount of the donation to Age Action will be logged here on this post each Monday.

Hopefully this will put a spring in my step!

https://www.ageaction.ie/how-we-can-help/age-action-and-irish-red-cross-covid-19-hardship-fund

Home

 

Context

Here in Ireland, everyone who is compromised by health issues and those aged over 70 must stay at home during the Covid-19 Pandemic with food and medication being delivered by family members or teams of volunteers. This is called ‘Cocooning’ and this is a series posts from inside the ‘cocoon’.

STAY SAFE. STAY HOME

UPDATE; I walked 32.7 kilometers in the week and was happy to make a donation of €32.70 to the Age Action Emergency COVID19 response fund on Monday morning last.

UPDATE: I walked 12.9 kilometers last week and was happy to make a donation of €12.90 to Age Action Emergency COVID19 response fund.

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Filed under Age Action Ireland, Ageing in Ireland, Covid-19, Ireland

From inside the ‘Cocoon’ – Sorrow

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is purple-hyacinth.jpg
Purple Hyacinth – symbols of sorrow (Image Amazon.com)

I have just had a long conversation with a friend. This is a friend of many decades, of similar age, who is also inside the ‘cocoon’ in a different part of the country. We had a long chat for over an hour, at the end of which, and out of the blue, came the revelation:

”I burst into tears without any warning and weep uncontrollably for 10 or 15 minutes – every – single -day.

For all that has been,

For a lifetime of loss – of family, of friends.

For all that we may never know’

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is weeping-.jpg

I answered truthfully –

So ….Do ….I

I wonder how many silent tearful ‘cocoons ‘ are there up and down the country?

I am reminded of lines by W.B Yeats in ‘The Stolen Child’

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you
can understand.”

Younger generations in particular and many more, will not understand.

Context

Here in Ireland, everyone who is compromised by health issues and those aged over 70 must stay at home during the Covid-19 Pandemic with food and medication being delivered by family members or teams of volunteers. This is called ‘Cocooning’ and this is a series posts from inside the cocoon.

STAY SAFE. STAY HOME

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Filed under Ireland

From inside the ‘Cocoon’ – Talking Heads

A big downside for those of us ‘cocooned’ in virtual solitary confinement and not living at street level, is the absence of real life faces. COVID-19 has stripped us bare, pulled us apart at the seams. Yes, there is television, but the faces on the screen are one dimensional, and they are not looking at me, they are strangers and they are not talking to me personally.

RTE weather bulletin. (Image RTE )

In my family, we are texters, WhatsApp-ers, Tweeters and e-mailers. Good friends will, and indeed do, make voice calls, and many long happy telephone conversations do take place.

But faces….. Where are the faces?

           Face to Face (Image Clipart.com)

One of the most challenging aspects of this new life, this life inside a ‘cocoon’ is the absence of a few words with others – the post office clerk, the shop assistant, the pharmacist, or complete strangers simply passing the time of day, saying a casual ‘hello’ or ‘isn’t it a lovely day?’

While I have been lamenting the loss of my freedom, the loss of my daily walk, the loss of observing nature, of watching busy lives, the biggest loss of all has been the loss of the ‘Talking Heads’ that each of us encounter during a normal day.

On Tuesday last, my Toastmasters Club, Talking Heads in East Cork, hosted a ‘Zoom’ meeting. With some 26 to 28 participants, we assembled in our own homes for some fun and interaction using the wonders of modern technology. Afterwards, I thought about how appropriate the name of my Club is – ‘Talking Heads’.

Looking at and seeing faces, exchanging words, smiling and being smiled at is good brain food. It keeps us grounded, It keeps us connected. It keeps us ‘together’ in every sense of the word, and it is essential in our lives for health and well being.

Those of us inside the ‘cocoon’ absolutely need many ‘Talking Heads’ to keep us well balanced. Physical distance yes, but we do need visuals too!

*Talking Heads Toastmasters Club is a member club of Toastmasters International located in East Cork and meets every two weeks *

STAY SAFE. STAY HOME

Here in Ireland, everyone who is compromised by health issues and those aged over 70 must stay at home, with food and medication being delivered by family members or teams of volunteers.This is called ‘Cocooning’ and this is a series of short posts from inside the cocoon.

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Filed under Ageing in Ireland, Covid-19, Ireland

From inside the ‘Cocoon’ – Dying

Padraig Byrne peers into the hospital room where his brother Francis had just died. (Copyright Padraig Byrne)

This image will almost certainly become an iconic one. Here is Padraig Byrne, looking into the hospital room where his brother Francis had just died. Unable to be by his dying brother’s bedside, Padraig was desperate to be near him at this time and seized the opportunity to get as near as possible by pulling up a park bench and being able to see into the room where his brother lay.

Who would have thought that people are dying alone in hospitals, with family members unable to be there?

Such is the impact of the Covis-19 lockdown.

In Ireland, we ‘do’ death, dying and funerals very well, with huge rituals, crowds of people, plates of sandwiches, prayers, handshakes, all-night sittings at wakes, more plates of sandwiches and tea, more handshakes. Often unknown nooks and crannies of the life of the deceased are revealed by all who knew them, and often, that there are surprises that many knew nothing about. But these comforting rituals, like everything else during this crisis, has been turned on its head.

Now funerals are sadder and lonelier events with no church service and only a handful of mourners permitted in the cemetery.

No rituals

No comfort

No sandwiches

No handshakes and

No hugs.

Such hard and challenging times for all who are the bereaved.white-petaled flower illustration

 

And that includes a dear friend who lost her beautiful mother just a week ago. We could not stand with her when we should have been travelling from all over the country to share in her grief with our hugs, handshakes and words of sympathy.

It has happened and continues to happen all over the world, already more than half a million times, and counting.

We grieve for all of those who have been lost and for all those left behind. And this is for them.

  • Here in Ireland, everyone who is compromised by health issues and those aged over 70 must stay at home, with food and medication being delivered by family members or teams of volunteers.
  • This is called ‘Cocooning’ and this will be a series of short posts from inside the cocoon.

 

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Filed under Ageing in Ireland, Covid-19, Ireland