Sadly everyone reading this will have been affected more or less directly by the virus and my gratitude goes to all of those working on our behalf in stressed and difficult circumstances in our amazing national health service staff and those in our care homes and in our food shops. Suddenly there are cycling groups collecting and delivering people’s medicines, a postman who puts on fancy dress every day to cheer up the people on his round and all the community support networks that have sprung into life. Yes, some have been trying scam people or raising prices outrageously but on the whole humans emerge well out of this and the earth has been giving a great sigh of relief as air quality improves and fish returns to the waters of Venice. Some of us I know have felt some benefits from not being allowed to career around at breakneck speed all the time. A chance to quieten and re-evaluate. But for others it has brought so much insecurity about homes and jobs or the stress of trying to care for children and continue working from home.
If you have been directly affected by the virus my heart goes out to you. What a heartbreaking and frightening time it has been for some families even unable to visit their dying relatives in hospital or attend their funerals. We have, along with many burial grounds in the country, chosen to lock our gates except for funerals and I know that means that some of you may also have been unable to visit on a date that had particular meaning for you which will have felt hard. Funerals are often unattended if the virus was the cause of death and family members are self-isolating. We can have 10 mourners along with the funeral directors, but we still ask everyone to observe social distancing. This is the opposite of what everyone needs at such a time when a good hug and a shared drink or cup of tea can make all the difference. When you already feel isolated and lonely to have your isolation enforced in this way is very hard to take.
So, what can you do?
So many activities have now moved online from community choirs and yoga to coffee mornings and Quaker meetings as well of course as all the business activities. I find that talking to someone either on my computer or phone but using the video makes me feel much more connected and relaxed. I have had chats while making supper, been shown around a friend’s newly decorated room and admired the Easter egg my daughter decorated and had other more delicate conversations that would have been harder I think without the visual cues. As many of you will have heard this approach has also been introduced on some covid wards because you feel more connected to the person when you can see as well as hear them. If this was not part of your normal communication (it wasn’t for me) I really do recommend it. It does mean mastering a smartphone or tablet. Maybe now is the time to give it a go. If you do you can then also join some groups of friends on What’s Ap which again has been a source of great entertainment and inspiration for me during this time as well as handy tips about where to buy flour! I have laughed out loud most days at some bit of cheerful nonsense one of my favourite being a BBC sports commentator, Andrew Cotter, using his skills to describe interactions between his two dogs. Worth a watch!
And if you are unable to be with someone when they are dying there are also useful ways you can reach out to them and so alleviate some of the pain of separation. I recommend you make yourself a special area in your home perhaps with flowers and a candle and a photograph of the person concerned and an object or item of clothing you particularly associate with them. Take time to sit there each day and reflect on them and send them your love, feel the heart connection you have to them which goes beyond the physical. You can say out loud what you would like them to know or you can speak it in your heart. And if you know they are in their final hours or that a funeral is taking place then take yourself there at that time and spend time sitting, reading, perhaps writing them a letter just as a way of getting your thoughts and feelings down on paper or meditating if this is a practice that you use.
Keep connected to others also affected by this death. Have a phone call, write a letter. Don’t let the enforced isolation prevent you reaching out in other ways. Similarly, if someone has been bereaved make an effort to keep in touch with them just to find out how they are. They may value the chance to talk about the person who died or just want to hear a friendly voice.
Later, there will be opportunities to create memorial gatherings when you can be with all the friends and family you would have expected to share the funeral with. We plan to offer one here at Westmill for anyone who was affected in this way and needs to come together with others.
Meanwhile, spring is moving rapidly and the wildflowers are out in the hedgerows. Our first swallow arrived back four days ago and there are a lot of butterflies and bees out and about enjoying the blossom. The bluebells are out in the woods above our farm and the burial ground is springing into life. Enjoy the sunshine if you can.