Courage and grief in the age of Covid

Time of article published Oct 15, 2020

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By Lindsay Slogrove

Covid-19 hit home hard this week.

There we were, two of the dogs and I, intertwined on the couch having a mid-Saturday zizz, when the phone rang.

It was my sister, Janet, so distraught I couldn’t hear what she was saying. It finally penetrated. Her husband, Sean, and my beloved brother (in-law), was dead.

It wasn’t Covid-19; he had a massive heart attack out of the blue, while driving home from the vet with his daughter, Tyane.

Jan and Sean had been married more than 30 years, and I had known him from school days in the mid ’80s.

Ironically, last week’s column involved mortality and a lament that people with scientific superpowers often did not live to see the results of their explorations.

Sean’s superpower was as a people magnet. His friends were from everywhere, and he made them all feel they were his best friend. He was happy, (but, say his girls, Tyane and Max, sometimes grumpy), enormously kind, thoughtful and giving.

His wit was second to none, and any sad face was a personal affront to him. You had to at least groan at some of his quips. His potato salads were legendary.

His kindness was mirrored by a man, who only identified himself as Checkers 60, who stopped at the roadside, where the car had been steered, and helped Tyane to administer CPR.

It was not only kind – in the age of Covid-19, he was extraordinarily courageous.

When I got Jan’s call, my very first instinct was to grab the car keys and rush to be with my family, who I haven’t seen since lockdown in March.

But our Covid-19 reality reared up. Jan and I are over 50 and have underlying conditions that make us vulnerable.

For so many millions of people around the world, death has carried more pain than it normally does. Covid-19 alone has claimed more than 1 million lives. That’s a million “groups” of family and friends who could not be near the person they loved to offer comfort as they died, nor with others who were feeling the same pain and loss.

People mourning deaths from other causes are also locked away from any succour they may have gleaned in the company of fellow mourners.

We have had to make do with Facetime, WhatsApps, emojis and calls. No hugs or tears on each others’ shoulders.

Grieving in isolation is so, well, weird. When you don’t live in the same place, and lockdown has kept you apart for months, there is no immediate “gap” in your life.

These come at startling moments when anything reminds you of the person who is gone: then it hits you all over again – they’re really gone forever.

Nothing prepares people for the pain of loss.

All of us must make sure preventable deaths, like Covid-19, are minimised. Just because we are frustrated, angry and “over” the virus, it’s not going away. We have to learn to live with it, and care enough about each other that we will do whatever it takes, no matter how irritating or painful it may be, to protect ourselves, people we love, and absolute strangers.

And be grateful the world has people like Checkers 60 in it.

Thank you for trying, sir.

  • Slogrove is the news editor.

The Independent on Saturday

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