Coronavirus: Loss during lockdown

Four weeks ago, I boarded a plane that I’d booked less than 12 hours before its wheels lifted from the ground at Jersey Airport headed for the UK. I’d flung any items of clothing I could reach into a suitcase following the phone call I’d been expecting, but dreading, from my parents; “come home Bex, it’s time”.

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Both my grandads were on end-of-life care; one after a long and cruel battle with Alzheimer’s, and the other a victim of the same illness, but who had deteriorated in only a matter of months. I’d spent that time “sitting tight”, staying positive, carrying on as normal and other clichés, but now the message was loud and clear – I needed to go home.

The days that followed were tough, to say the least. Not only because of the nature of what we as a family were going through, but because of the rising uncertainty that surrounded us; the word ‘coronavirus’, forever ringing in our ears, had already begun to sting us all with its connotations of change, fear and unanswerable questions.

But those days were also incredibly special; I’d been granted the gift of something so precious and rare – time. I was able to say goodbye; something many have been deprived of in these hellish circumstances.

Keith Lancashire and Douglas Thompson died 24 hours apart – on the 19th and 20th of March. We weren’t allowed to give them a proper funeral. Only immediate family could attend, we couldn’t have cars, a church service or even hug each other due to living in separate households. We did our best, but it still felt stiff, cold, half-hearted and hollow. On a normal day, those ceremonies would have been bursting with people paying their respects and sharing fond memories of these two wonderful men, but instead – this.

As the situation worsened, and lockdown was announced, I was unable to travel back to Jersey. Sure, this meant spending a few extra weeks out of my ordinary routine, but then again who isn’t making this exact sacrifice at the moment? What it did mean was being surrounded by love, comfort and shared grief at a time when we needed it most – I doubt I’d be coping as well as I am without it.

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Exactly a month on from that initial flight, I boarded another today – returning to the life I left behind in such a hurry. It becomes quite breathtakingly clear how much has changed when you find yourself sporting a face mask in a lifeless airport, where the handful of passengers sit with miles between them and anxiety etched like a tattoo into their faces.

Though I’m pleased to be back, ‘normal’ feels like another destination entirely, as I now start two weeks of compulsory isolation in an apartment by myself. I’ll be working from ‘home’, having friends deliver food to my door, and hopefully trying to enjoy some me-time rather than focussing on the negatives as it would be so easy to do.

It’s uncomfortable, it’s strange, and it’s certainly not what any of us want or need right now, but it’s what we have to do. I care about my health and safety, that of my friends, colleagues, partner, and fellow islanders here in Jersey.

For that reason, I’ll be putting up with it and staying in. How about you?

Read my poem Love is a Promise written in memory of my grandads here.

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