‘When you are strong and healthy,
You never think of sickness coming,
But it descends with sudden force
Like a stroke of lightning.
When involved in worldly things,
You never think of death’s approach;
Quick it comes like thunder
Crashing around your head.’
We shouldn’t be surprised at anything that happens in life, yet we frequently are. This global pandemic has shaken us to the core and turned our lives upside down, yet there was always the possibility that it might happen. Plague, in one form or another, has been a factor throughout the centuries, bringing in its wake suffering, death and grief.
The spread of coronavirus and the number of deaths numb us with anxiety and fear. As everything has ground to halt, the future seems so uncertain, yet in reality it was always uncertain. Though we tend to act as if we will live forever, sickness, old age and death are never far away. We choose on the whole not to think about it too much, and when confronted with death, we don’t know how to handle it.
Life is not given to us freehold, but on lease. Life and death are a great mystery, but we can’t have one without the other. I’m reminded of an old Mexican refrain:
‘Get used to dying
Before death arrives
For the dead can only live
And the living can only die.’
Nature can be our great solace here, for we only have to be out on a glorious spring day to see life returning in the unfurling of green leaves and the bursting of buds that have been dormant. The constant cycle of death and rebirth gives rise to hope, the antithesis of despair.
Right now many are experiencing distress, grief and loneliness. We are learning that we are powerless in the face of this pandemic and that we cannot stop it running its course, but it will come to an end. It will die like everything else. All that we can do is to be patient and accept the situation with courage and humility. We can also be grateful for the efforts of so many who are working on the front line, and for the countless acts of generosity and kindness that the virus is giving rise to.
Let’s all remain hopeful that through this unfolding drama, in which we all have a part to play however small, that the world can be healed and that awareness, compassion and co-operation will be the defining features of the future.