(I am conscious as I write this reflection that many have not had the positive outcomes with Covid which we as a family have had. As well as persistent symptoms of ‘Long Covid’, and the indescribable experience of losing a loved one to this nasty virus, many have had to travel their journey with Covid alone and often very afraid. I am also aware that a number of us are currently experiencing symptoms, going for tests and awaiting the results by text. To each and every one of you I offer this personal reflection as a perspective rather than a directive as to how we should respond when Covid-19 comes to call).
The first feelings on realising that Covid-19 might have breached what we thought were strong defences, was a deep sense of panic. What if I’ve passed it on to someone else? What about those in the household who are at risk of complications due to underlying conditions? What if one or more of us end up in hospital? The simple reality is we have no idea how we got Covid, we had gone into semi-hibernation after Christmas and apart from necessary trips for petrol and groceries had hardly left home. Our contact tracer was actually surprised how few close contacts we had had apart from each other. It was shocking how quickly the virus spread within our household. The first symptoms appeared around lunchtime on Sunday 3rd, and within 24 hours all of us were showing symptoms. This necessitated three separate trips to the test centre in Wicklow, spread over 12 hours, with many of the same people meeting us at the carpark and guiding us to the test cubicle with the same level of calm, efficient and kind interaction, literally from morning to night.
The twenty-four-hour wait for results was filled with mixed emotions as we rationalised how it couldn’t be Covid, while dreading the implications of positive results. The first texts confirming two cases in our household shocked us and set off the practical processes of letting family, friends and then our wider community know. It was almost a strange sense of relief to have a diagnosis. The uncertainty was over. All we could do was get on with the realities. At this stage it was clear that we had much to be thankful for. Our symptoms were mild, very mild for some. Luke, who had contracted Covid in November was still immune and could (with sensible adherence to the restrictions) get necessary groceries and medicines. Having said that we are immensely grateful to everyone who offered and delivered all manner of goodies and specific acts of kindness during our quarantine. We are also thankful that we had each other to look out for one another. My heart genuinely goes out to those who have had to go through this alone.
As most of us began to improve, it was clear (and almost inevitable) that my symptoms began to deteriorate. The persistent dry cough brought breathlessness and a worryingly high temperature which in turn brought weird dreams and broken sleep. Two nights in particular stood out as being quite scary, especially with the breathlessness but thankfully the symptoms eased from then on. The recovery can be slow and fraught with anxiety. Every cough is analysed, every prevailing symptom is monitored. There are no words to describe the change in taste and smell which I can only liken to inhaling some sicky searing fumes of paraffin and tasting its equivalent. The sheer joy in recent days of tasting food again and breathing in snow ladened breaths of fresh air has been gloriously refreshing.
I am really looking forward to a gentle return to ministry over the coming days. These last twelve months have taught all of us to take nothing for granted, to appreciate each day as a gift, and to live life to the full. As I look back over the past three weeks I am struck at how much has changed: My muscle tone- such as it was – has all but disappeared, short walks are exhausting. I lost a stone in that time (a radical new way of dieting!!). I also grew a beard as the process of shaving proved too exhausting. However, I do have to say that while I haven’t been able to focus on bible reading and praying, knowing how many of you were praying for us was humbling and such a blessing. I really enjoyed the Sunday services led by David. They lifted my soul and inspired me to keep going. We are so blessed to have so many choir recordings, we are also blessed to have such a strong sense of community and care for one another.
Towards the end of December, before Covid-19 came to call, I began to look at how we might use these months of lockdown to prepare ourselves for being Church in a new emerging reality. As I prayed about this the following monthly priorities began to emerge:
January Rest and Reflection (more prophetic than I could have expected)
February Prayer and Preparation
March Listening to each other
June – August Implementing
September Beginning the next season
While this may seem to be a very long period, with vaccines coming online, albeit slowly, we can begin to look forward with confidence to a new chapter of being Church together in a very different world. In the midst of the chances and changes of our daily lives, we can also be confident of this, that ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. Until the day of Christ Jesus’ Philippians 1:5.