I thought long and hard before commencing writing this post. It comes from a deeply personal place. At its heart are two questions; how do we rationalise the last year; and move forward?
Many people are struggling with the continuing situation that limits our liberties. Long held freedoms from the ‘Old World’ such as foreign travel, free movement within our region and further field; not wearing face coverings, and of course, meeting up with friends and family, have been forgone in order to protect us. Leisure facilities closed: no cinema, no spectating at sports, no gigs, no theatre, no nights out in restaurants or pubs; just the same four walls which can be, so we are told, a nightmare if one’s in an abusive relationship, or lives alone.
All these factors and more we have to contend with before the skeptics begin. The doubters, deniers, and conspiracy theorists pro-porting everything from 5G masts to Alien invasion. Hands that: are washed, or are clapping, or tearing down our history, or are making gestures of distain, all at a time when we should be putting them together and praying.
During the first Lockdown we lived in fear, during the second we lived in complacency assuming that sanitising, masks and distance was sufficient to keep us safe. By the time of the third Lockdown, good became bad – becoming tired of following the ‘rules’. Craving the gym, the hair salon, the pub, the sun – whilst all the time families were being torn apart. The death toll and infection rates daily breaking new records broken but nothing to take pride in.
The biggest contrast between Lockdowns 1 & 3: the figures increasingly became names we knew! Friends and families; people who had COVID, recovered from COVID, continued to suffer the aftermath (Long COVID), or are mourning a loss because of COVID. Suddenly things became very real.
As a cleric I had for a year entertained requests from friends “should anything happen to me, will you bury me?” I have always answered in the affirmative; secretly praying to never deliver upon a promise made.
Everyday more became infected, more survived, more got vaccinated, but the wait is still a long way off, and still more died.
We read of loss, heroism, and downright rank stupidity. Grieving with the hurting, applauding the selfless and condemning the selfish.
As we move further into 2021, it is easy to join forces with the “lets get back to normal” brigade. Unfortunately for them, this is normal – the much discussed “new normal”.
Having lost friends to COVID I have witnessed the destruction of family life at first hand, so I pose a question.
We all have a choice. We can obey the rules and take precautions or live in denial, carrying on in our own selfish ways until we’ve lost our sense of taste – as well as morality. There’s our choice. To be considerate, careful, protective and think of the harm our actions cause to others and ourselves; or be belligerent and quote “human rights” – the favoured mantra of the self-motivated.
Jesus said “No greater love hath man than he lays down his life for his brother.” John 15.
That verse has always conjured an image of self sacrifice; a sort of Bruce Willis figure at the end of “Armageddon” remaining behind to press the button; sacrificing his life for the rest of humanity. Hollywood heroes are as fake as the Hollywood dream.
Those whom we have lost to COVID didn’t choose to lay down their lives” – life was robbed from them. Dying in isolation without the comfort of loved ones near. The subsequent pain remaining with the bereaved.
As we wish for normality, as we debate the effectiveness or ridicule our political leaders, as we urge them to accelerate the recovery process, as we are tempted to ‘break out’ and do the wrong thing: is the loss of 100,000 fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons – all loved – all gone before their time: acceptable? Is this what we have become, accepting loss, disrespecting those gone, ignoring it all for what – a tan, a pint, a workout, a meet up?
Having “popped my cherry’ in terms of conducting COVID funerals, I pray we never become complacent as to forget the numbers quoted are names, then multiply to include the affected, mourning and hurting. The legacy of this virus and its cost upon our society.
There is an old saying “but for the grace of God, there go I”.
Respect the fallen, comfort the mourning, give shelter to the needy, and above all else, do what is right in the eyes of all. All these directions to Christians are found in the New Testament; so is the verse, “Go do likewise”.