Friday Reflection: How pandemics make us consider our mortality

Years ago, a friend of mine became quite paranoid about the possibility of Ebola coming to Australia. We had many chats about the disease and I tried my best to soothe her panic.

You know, the stock standard phrases. “It is a long way from here. It is just confined to one part of Africa. The risk for the rest of the world is extremely low. Don’t worry the medical community have it under control.”

These were my platitudes to my friend who I felt was tilting a little too far to the edge.

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However, I do remember clearly one major concern she had about this ghastly disease. She made the observation that the dead and dying could not be hugged, that no-one was able to hold their hand, to help them through their last moments and say goodbye.

It was a cruel concept and one that has stayed in my mind since those conversations about Ebola all those years ago.

And now the concept has become a reality in our pandemic world, one that might apply to us.

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At the beginning of the pandemic, I jokingly said to my four children – on various occasions – “You know my will is in the top drawer under the printer, in the study.”

My children raised their eyebrows and laughed the comment off. I really was only half joking though, as this illness has now caused me to pause and consider my mortality, to think the unthinkable, that if I got this disease I might not recover.

I am sure that there are many others in the community who have had similar thoughts.

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Having too much time on my hands and wandering around the house, I have walked down that dark tunnel of black possibilities and it has made me look at my possessions and knick-knacks in a new way.

Which child will want some of my furniture, who will want the paintings and who will take the photo albums or will they divide them up among themselves?

Have I got too much junk that will end up at the op shop or out on the nature strip, someone’s trash becoming someone’s treasure?

Sadly, as I walked around my neighbourhood the other day, this concept of the ephemeral nature of our possessions hit home.

There is a retirement village a few streets away and I pass it if I choose to do that circuit. Sometimes I deliberately don’t go that way as an act of defiance for a future I don’t want. But that day I went by and there on the footpath at the entrance to the village was a pile of polystyrene boxes and I took a closer look.

One of the boxes was full of photo albums and one of them was labelled ‘Granma’s photos’. My heart nearly broke as I flipped through the pages of happy snaps with an old woman and what I assumed were her children and grandchildren.

Why were they thrown away, discarded on the nature strip?  Had she died and no-one wanted these treasures?

It filled me with a terrible sadness. Hopefully this will not be my fate or yours.

Has the pandemic made you consider your own mortality? What worries you most? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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