I’ve been moved to tears by Pam Rhodes Sunday Live Service today, below.[i] It honours the sacrifices of ordinary men and women from many different nations; the millions from the West Indies, Czechoslovakia, East and West Africa, and from Poland. (Who could forget the bravery of the Polish pilots in the British air force?) From India, two and a half million men produced the largest volunteer army in history. [ii]
During the war people back at home were making sacrifices, too. Ruth Edwards was a district nurse who told me tales of working in the London Blitz, hearing the menacing planes overhead as she stepped through rubble, not knowing if her house would still be standing when she went home. There was rationing and food shortages, and strict blackouts. Thousands of people were killed by road accidents on pitch black roads.
Now we’re having to make different sorts of sacrifices, in this strange Covid war. The coronavirus is invisible: it spreads silently from one person to another. So far 47,742 people have died in the UK, and hundreds of NHS workers [iii].The only way we can stop it in its track is by separating ourselves from each other. Prolonged isolation damages mental health, but so far, separation is the only weapon we have.
Covid is more dangerous to people with underlying conditions and older people. Over 400,000 elderly live in UK care homes, in family spaces where they are a part of the community. Perhaps remembering the outrage when the NHS discharged thousands of elderly into care homes in May causing a spike of 25,000 ‘extra’ deaths in less than six weeks, the government has issued strict guidelines to care homes.
A painful sacrifice
Perhaps the most painful measure is to restrict relatives visits. Duncan Mountjoy and his wife Lynne have been married for 50 years. Now, with late stage dementia, she is living in our care home in Wantage. She’s been there since July 2018, and until Covid Duncan spent most of the day with her. When it struck, at first, he couldn’t see her at all. To create a sense of being close to her still, he walked the 5 km to the wall around the care home each day and blew a kiss over it to Lynne in her room. “Emotionally, it helps me feel that I’m near her. And I can wave through the window,” he said.
Now restrictions have eased Duncan has ‘window visits’, but more than anything he is longs to hug his wife again. He said it helps knowing that she is being looked after lovingly and well. He also appreciates the need to keep her and others in the home safe from Covid.
Care home staff work their socks off to keep their residents happy, not just in our Pilgrim Homes but others as well. There have been stories in the media about the lengths they are going to, including keeping them in touch with their families using iPads, Smartphones and Laptops. Residents are generally kept very well occupied, and although they miss their families, it seems that the most pain is felt by their relatives.
Just recently we read of a retired nurse (and former care home manager), and her daughter who tried to remove their grandmother from her care home ‘on an impulse’. They pushed aside a carer and wheeled the lady in her wheelchair out to their car. The care home has been criticised for calling the police, but legally the registered manager is responsible for residents’ wellbeing and is obliged to call the police in a case like this. There’s no accusation of poor care, only the anguish of not being able to hug their grandmother. [iv]
It’s sad to read media criticism of care homes for sticking to the guidelines. One newspaper accused them of causing ‘long, lonely, anguished deaths’. Missing in the narrative is the fight against Covid and stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
How would a relative feel knowing that he or she had inadvertently carried in the virus and caused the deaths of others in the home?
Government guidelines a restriction of our liberty?
There’s also the strange thinking that sees government restrictions as a deprivation of our own personal liberties, chipping away at democracy. How can anyone look at the figures and not see the reality? My house group has been praying for weeks for Connie, a nurse and mother of two children who has been fighting Covid. She is still in hospital, needing dialysis three times a week. Talk to her about undermining democracy…
I’m so glad we can honour the sacrifices made by ordinary people who fought wars for us: it’s what this Remembrance Sunday is all about.
Perhaps we can also remember the sacrifices being made by ordinary people right here and now, in this Covid war. Think of them, too, as you watch this wonderful Remembrance Day Service: https://youtu.be/CRPxZUi-WAc