On the threshold of a new year
December 21, 2020
What started as we thought it to be, just a serious flu in Asia quickly turned into a pandemic, that we hadn't experienced since the Spanish Flu of 1918. Perhaps our parents did and more certainly our grandparents did, but how could we imagine that something that happened a century ago could happen again. After all we had highly developed and scientific advanced health care, lots of hospitals and countless well trained professionals to take care of us. But it came to us and it doesn't look like that it may leave us any time soon.
 
I am not going to talk about the ins and outs of Covid and comparable pandemics. My purpose is to talk about a facet that has barely been touched upon and of which we have no indication yet what the damage is after the pandemic has ceased to torment us. I am talking about the emotional damage that people have suffered. Those who developed the disease and had to be admitted to hospitals and often face traumatic experiences because of their treatments. But also the families and friends of those who got sick and died in isolation without a loved-one present to hold their hand when the end arrived, and the people "lucky"enough to be able to attend the funeral of someone who died of Covid-19.
 
Recently I saw footage of a surveillance camera during the funeral of an elderly gentleman. His widow and their two sons were present as well as a handful of people that filled up the allowed quota of people attending. The people were sitting 2 meters apart from each other. At a certain moment one of the sons couldn't stand it any more, he picked up his chair and set it right next to his mother, quickly followed by his brother who did the same. When both put their arms around their mother to comfort her an attending crematorium employee stepped forward and ordered them to separate and go back to the 2 meter mandated distance. When I saw that I thought what would I do; move away or would I say a bad word and remained sitting. I don't know for sure but sincerely I hope that I would ignore the order to move and accept the consequences, I hope the latter.
 
How is it possible that we let others dictate how we have to grieve and comfort each other in our hour of need and unbearable pain.
 
This touches also on how elderly people living in nursing homes are being isolated from their loved-ones and even from their neighbours and friends living in the same nursing home. A Dutch professor and clinical psychologist tried to open the discussion about what is more important: “how well or how long a person lives?”. So far I haven’t noticed that this question has been picked up for further investigation but perhaps we all should think about this and try to come up with some ideas about this and talk about the consequences of those ideas. In the present situation of lock-downs, travel-restrictions, vaccine trials, and governments focusing more on the economic and financial damage than on the psychological damage on the short and long term, it isn’t surprising that subjects like these are forgotten, but they shouldn’t. We aren’t at war, although it may be presented to us that we are, but we face a big challenge and a situation that brings more and more situations to light that are wrong and seem to have been so for a long time. It requests a need for bold, well-thought and considerate decisions, whereby we think of all people and not just the interest of a few who may seem to complain the loudest.
 
A new year is approaching and it won’t be the same as it was and perhaps it will never be the same again. People say and ask: “when do we get back to normal?” I think that the “normal” as we knew it doesn’t exist any more, and that we together will have to search for a new normal, which may take a long time. But with a little bit of interest and trust in each other, combined with some neighbourly love we might find a new world that will suit us much better then the old one.
 
A good 2021 to you and your loved-ones!
 
Erik Slebos
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