A South England Conference Platform

Catherine Boldeau

Back and Forth

Crossing over and then crossing back again. For me, the pandemic has been filled with a plethora of emotions that range from rage to grief to euphoria. Rites of passage were muted and needed rituals were dampened, if used at all.
Back and Forth

I have COVID for the third time since the start of the pandemic.  The first time there were no tests available, but the symptoms of the second and third episodes where I was tested, mimic it so neatly, that I know it’s my third time.  No, I’m not proud of it.  Far from it, but I need to face the reality of this defiant pandemic.

When lockdown first occurred in March 2020, I was a tad apprehensive how the country would manage with most of the population at home.  But after a week of working from home, worshipping from home, socialising from home, and purchasing groceries etc. from the comfort of my living room or bedroom, I quickly adjusted to life in a pandemic world.  In fact, I hate to admit it, but I enjoyed not rushing to the office, sitting in traffic, or having to put on my daily full-face makeup.

Meetings via Zoom were initially annoying, but after a few weeks, I settled into the normality and routine of seeing my colleagues on a screen instead of speaking in person.

By April 2020, the weather was gorgeous.  Daffodils were still blooming, although their beauty was ending, only to be replaced with fragrant camellias, budding hydrangea and an array of roses.  It was a time that made me think of the statement, ‘God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world’.

My joy at the beauty of nature was shattered by the loss of friends to COVID-19.  While the media were blasting out the death news on the television, radio and social media, the statistics became very real.  They now represented people I knew.

My prayers no longer had a general feel: now I and my family were praying for friends, family and church members who we knew and loved.  People who were at death’s door.  People who were not expected to ‘make it’.  And then we were praying for the families of those who had died.

‘Vulnerable’ became a word that was used daily.  Those with underlying health conditions and the elderly were named in this list.  My concern was now with my ageing parents, who I instructed not to leave the house under any circumstances.  I offered to shop and drop for them as often as needed.  I encouraged them to let me have their groceries delivered by local retailers.  I followed the government guidelines and mainly spoke with them on the phone.

The feeling of bliss that had accompanied the original lockdown had turned to concern.  I became unsettled, even during my daily permitted walks.  There was often no-one around and it was a perfect time to communicate with the Father. But my thoughts were ever on my family and often I missed the beauty and joy of the natural world around me.

My daughter turned 18 in August 2020 during one of the slight lockdown reprieves that we were given.  My original plan was a celebration with family and friends in style, of which she had dreamed and requested.  However, the scaled back version, in our garden, in accordance with government guidelines, was engaging and meaningful, despite the absence of key family members.

Shortly after this, I experienced my first unofficial bout of Covid.  I felt rough but somehow couldn’t get a test to verify my status.  However, in the middle of December, my family was struck with the dreaded virus and my husband was hospitalised for a short period. We were both left suffering from Long Covid.

Crossing over for us, was like a game of the ‘In the River, On the Bank’. It’s a game where you need to be extremely attentive to the instructions, you must listen, and you need to obey.  One day everything seemed to be in order only to be quickly followed by chaos.  Emotions were like a pendulum of an unreliable grandfather clock. Nothing ticked along in rhythm.  It appeared that everything was out of alignment.

One of the scriptures that enabled me to endure the ‘In the River, On the Bank’ crossing over experience that was happening, was ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.’  These are the sentiments of a king who understood that despite all his wealth, power and position, life was so uncertain that he could only put his hope in a God with superior knowledge.

And, I too needed his superior knowledge in 2021; for just as I came to terms with my diagnosis of Long Covid in mid-April, my mother was diagnosed with a bleed on the brain.  For three months she clung to life like a spider dangling at the end of her web.  For three months, I battled with the medical profession.  For three months, I struggled to believe that my quietly feisty mother would no longer be with me.

And on July 14th 2021 I crossed over from being a child and become a motherless child. I also crossed over to replacing my mother as the matriarch in the family, not a position that I have ever desired.  Then, while still freshly immersed in grief, my husband retired and started a new assignment, my daughter applied to Uni to study and I returned to a new hybrid model of work.

Back and forth!

Crossing over and then crossing back again.  For me, the pandemic has been filled with a plethora of emotions that range from rage to grief to euphoria.  Rites of passage were muted and needed rituals were dampened, if used at all.  I learned to cross over technological barriers, jump through hybrid hoops, and adapt to new and challenging models of engagement with colleagues.

We have passed the 2-year mark since the first lockdown.  Covid still rages, I am living proof that the virus is still out there and have the lateral flow test to prove it.  As we emerge from the safety of our homes to return to the ‘new normal’, we are faced with a world where the Ukraine crisis dominates not only the news but impacts the surrounding nations.  Petrol prices are on the increase and fuel poverty is impacting many here in the UK.  The highs and lows continue.  We cross into the river and then, just as suddenly, we rush back onto the bank for safety.

The story I have related is my personal journey, but I know that there are many people out there with a ‘back and forth’ ‘crossing over’ story of their own.  I trust that you will find some peace and comfort in reading this as you continue to ‘trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding’, whenever you feel a sense of displacement, bewilderment and anxiety.

Catherine Anthony is a freelance writer.