COVID-19 has thrust all of us into a world that seems so contracted as if everything has been depleted, shortened, or suddenly and surprisingly made to be less than before. Food is disappearing from grocery store shelves, there are not enough ventilators, not enough doctors and nurses, and certainly, not enough effort from politicians.
Unfortunately, it is innate within human beings to know that to have something lessen is to move nearer towards an end, and, we all know that death, the ultimate end, has been very present since the beginning of the pandemic. In these days, spent trapped alone with my thoughts, I think a lot about all the people who have died so far, and I truly cannot think of anything worse than losing a loved one in this situation. Having to take so many precautions would undoubtedly result in a sort of truncated goodbye, where friends and family might not even get to see a loved one after they have been admitted to the hospital. The horror of only seeing a beloved again after they have departed is something that is unfathomable to many.
Then, there would be that period of abrupt grieving where only so many tears can be shed, only so many words whispered, only so long spent at a public burial or cremation, before the world has to be tucked again into a little house or apartment, where the return to safety and shelter, and having to immediately return to keeping everyone else, as well as oneself, alive and well comes back to the fore to take priority over grieving.
There are so many other endings that have been forced to exist in this time. There are friendships where persons needed just one or two more days of hanging out before they could truly blossom towards each other. There are college students with just a few weeks left before they are scheduled to graduate and make their way into the world of work to pave their own paths as doctors, writers, and politicians. There are relationships that ended with a fight, a harsh word, an accident. There were hands waving as people smiled and said goodbye to each other. There were hugs at the airport. Grandmothers kissing their grandchildren on their little noses, single mothers who handed their babysitters envelopes of money, men who slapped dominoes in seedy bars with their friends, fishermen who lobbed heavy snappers and strings of crab at haughty women who turned up their noses at them and then stalked away when the fishermen laughed, the same neighbours that you said ‘good morning’ to as you passed them by, every morning, mothers who cooked one last meal for their sons who live far away, brides-to-be who now have to fold their veils away until next month, until September, until Christmas, until next year. So many people who did not know that this would be the end, that that moment would be the last time they would see their loved one, or their companion, or their colleague, or that man or that woman whom they know by sight, that person that they have always known.
If we knew, that that would have been the last time if we knew then what we know now,
what would we have said? What would we have done?
Cried harder. Hugged tighter. Laughed louder. Said, ‘Thank you.’ Said, ‘I’m sorry.’ Said, ‘I love you.’ So many times. So many times.
Several of my students will be leaving the country as soon as the airports open up again. I will probably not see them again. That means that the last time I saw them was when school ended at midday, abruptly, due to the tension of the unresolved National Elections scandal combined with the rise of COVID-19. On that day, I said my hurried goodbyes, not realising that that was probably the last time that I was going to see some of them.
In a few months, some are due to start college, others are returning to their homelands, and yet others might be heading to another journey in a different part of the world. My time with all of them was cut short, and in the quiet moments spent in quarantine, I have had much to think about. All of the little things that I did not appreciate earlier. That student who always laughed at my dad jokes. That student who always turned their work in on time. That student who always offered to help. That student who doubted herself initially but is now so strong and talented. That student who is the most talented athlete I know. That student who is so sincere. That student who will one day save the world.
In the end, I suppose that we all tell ourselves that endings are only entryways to new beginnings, but, there is no denying that they do hurt, so much, so very much.