Vale to Aunt Marg, a COVID-19 statistic
In my mother’s words, “death leaves heartache that no-one can heal. Love leaves memories no-one can steal.” In memory of my mother’s Aunt Marg who put up a well fought battle, but who ultimately was taken away on the 20-5-20 to Covid-19.
Yesterday I stood up and was the brave one, the person you turn to when life hits rock bottom. I was the person you turn to when you need help to keep standing when you feel like falling to the ground in pure heartbreak. I was being the brave one for someone who would usually be that person for me. Not long ago, my mother was the one being strong and present for me. As heartbreaking as it was for her to see her daughter in such a state, falling onto the kitchen floor, telling her I’d had enough of living with an eating disorder tearing my mind apart each day and I didn’t want to fight anymore. Thankfully Mum was visiting on that particular day. She sat with me, talked, cried and didn’t leave my side until she knew I wasn’t alone. Had I have been alone, I’m not at all sure where I’d be now.
I don’t see myself as being brave at all, (although, many people have told me the contrary) because an eating disorder has the tendency to highlight all your weaknesses and flaws, boldly and brutally. On this particular day however, it was my turn to stand up and be strong for my mother as she scurried towards me holding her phone. She looked scared; she was shaking and stuttering because she knew what she would hear from the person calling. She pushed her phone towards me saying, ‘I can’t’. Clearly, this was a conversation she was not ready to have; she didn’t have the strength to hear the news, despite knowing what that news would be. I took her phone and listened to the call that no-one wants to take. This particular call was from the UK, at 3.30am UK time, and on the other end was Mum’s nephew; a phone call 3.30am is never good news.
And just like that, my mother’s world, our family’s world, was turned upside down as we learnt of the loss of Aunt Marg, the last living relative in that older generation on my mother’s side of the family. Tears flowed down Mum’s face as I listened to the details of how this special lady had left the world; she was pain free, in acceptance and overcome with good feelings about being reunited with her late husband. Before leaving, she gave her son a set of specific instructions, one of which was to get my mother’s address in Australia and send a package of belongings to her. This was one of her last living words.
You see, although my mother and her aunt lived worlds apart, they were always close. Since losing her own family earlier in life, I have always sensed that my mum looked upon this family member as being a second and much needed mother for a large part of her life. Just knowing her aunt was simply a phone call away has been an important comfort for her to have over the years. She trusted her aunt so deeply, spoke with nothing but admiration and respect for the generous and beautiful presence she embodied and shared a deep sense of mutual love and understanding. So loved, apparently by a great many of people, the very thought of anyone doing wrong by her was enough for those closest to defend and protect.
My mum’s aunt Marg was privy to the many hardships my mother had contended with as a child/ adolescent, the brushed under-the -carpet, dark family secrets hidden so deeply they can destroy relationships and the very essence of an individual. She took care of my mum, loved and supported her regardless of time or distance; there was an underlying understanding between them; Aunt Marg did one of the most selfless things anyone could possibly do for another; take on the role of a profoundly caring mother figure when my mum needed it the most. Despite not having seen her myself for a long time, I’m certain she would’ve eased the hardships my mother has endured; and she would have done so in a heartbeat because she thought the world of Mum; likewise, Mum thought the same about her. Aunt Marg’s death is a crushing loss that no words can portray.
My parents had planned to visit Aunt Marg next year. Mum has always looked forward to seeing her Aunty Marg on holidays back home; but this will not happen anymore (at least not to see her). Thankfully, they did get to visit late last year during a visit home to the UK; they were lucky enough to have had that recent connection with her. Is this a comfort for my mother during such an impactful loss? Probably not, because the sad reality was that she was a healthy elderly lady.
Yes, Aunt Marg was older and more at risk, but she was in good health which was essential as she had a severely disabled daughter who she chose to travel to several times a day in order to care for her. She made it clear that her daughter was not to be placed in an aged care facility before her time. Her choice was selfless, one of many she made throughout her life and more recently, during a time in her life when she should have been enjoying life in all its abundance. Rather, she took on a full-time role of caring for her severely disabled daughter, and grandchildren, visiting several times a day, every day. The repercussions of such an unnecessary loss are far-reaching. Sadly, Aunt Marg’s disabled daughter has now been placed into the aged care facility, a place that her mother fought hard to keep her out of, and as for the grandchildren, now without mother and grandmother; what happens to them?
There is more to this story than I can share. Sadly, betrayal and lies also play a massive part in this sad story. However, my intentions for this blog are not merely personal, the purpose is not a “Please feel sorry for my family because we experienced a COVID-19 related loss”; this story is bigger than my family. The number of COVID-19 related fatalities is shocking and continues to rise every day. I sympathize with anyone who has lost a loved one to this toxic virus. Along with the loss of the person, the freedom to say goodbye in a manner that both parties would have wanted has been unfairly ripped away.
So, this is not a feel-sorry-for-me kind of story. Am I angry? Hell yes, I don’t think any words can express how I’m currently feeling. I have a raging anger inside directed towards the ignorance of people with the ‘I won’t catch it mentality’, and those who think the virus is a whole lot of lies. My intention is to highlight the sad and infuriating message behind my family’s loss and of the losses of many others. I feel enraged that if people had really thought before they acted, many losses around the world would never have happened.
For me, the current situation has made writing this piece a no brainer. So, what is my intention for this blog? It’s quite simple really; to shine a bright light on all those people who for whatever reason, feel and act like they are the exception to government-imposed restrictions put in place not only for their own health, but for the health of everyone around them. If such people can learn one thing from this, my wish would be for people to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them, and the personal quality of being able to show care ‘for the health of other people living around them’, particularly during a pandemic even if this means going against personal beliefs of somehow being immune yourself.
To be blunt and to the point, this message is for the people who continue to ignore professional medical and scientific advice. Who go about their days as normal as possible, are lazy with self-hygiene, attending illegal parties and gatherings (regardless of hefty fines for doing so), basking on the beach full of people for an afternoon, and traveling to small towns against contrary advise, all while insisting the virus is a big conspiracy and secretly getting away with as much as they can. It’s time to grow up.
The careless actions of these people are responsible for many deaths. Remember, not all holders of the virus are symptomatic so it’s possible that the granddaughter who decided to attend a secret party with friends is unequivocally responsible for the death of a beloved grandmother. Likewise, it is possible that the young man who went to work despite feeling unwell, serving hundreds of people, may be responsible for the middle-aged lady with a history of respiratory problems, who coincidently went through his checkout, is now fighting for her life on a ventilator. As a child I was always taught this as putting others before yourself, a lesson some of us may need a swift reminder of.
Take Home Message
If I could do one big thing to make a difference in this messy time, it would be to convince everyone that COVID-19 is serious. Think carefully before engaging in groups and activities; this thought process has become as normal as having breakfast for me. Next time, before going to that crowded indoor party, challenge yourself, take time to consider how your actions may have a domino effect on others. Consider that someone at this party may be unknowingly infected, resulting in a new outbreak. Such an outbreak is likely to ravage your own family before spreading across to your friends, co-workers and finally to the wider community. The virus infections will become a devastatingly ongoing cycle if we don’t act in a smart and considerate manner. Could you live knowing that you had infected others because you behaved rashly?
In my family, events that took place following Aunt Marg’s battle to survive have contributed to a family who are beyond help, beyond reconciliation. Disappointingly, the irresponsible and illegal actions of one or two people may have brought the virus into the family home, where not one but two individuals considered at high risk, spent a lot of time. Surely the death of a beloved family member was not worth that one night out, that escape from quarantine, all for a few hours of partying.
Above all, stop carrying on about how COVID-19 is a load of mistruths, Corona is a big deal and we need to act with caution. Eventually, our medical experts will know more about it and how to control it, but until this time comes, consider it deadlier than the flu. Think about your family, your friends, anyone who sits comfortably within your heart. Respect them, protect them as much as you can, give yourself and family the best chance at dodging a COVID-19-related loss. It’s not worth the risk. Look after each other, have each other’s back and behave in a manner that you would like to be treated in return. This is the least we can do for those we cherish and love.
Please note: I can not take credit for these photo’s. Thank you to Jason for allowing me to write this story and use a selection of his treasured photos.