Hannah Stone, our new Poet Theologian in Virtual Residence, writes:
In the daily 5pm briefing from number 10, the numbers of people who have died from CV19 is given as one of many statistics. Recently, deaths taking place in care homes and other community settings outside hospital were included, and overnight the figures seemed to jump from mid 22,000s to in excess of 26,000. We also held a minute’s silence for the key workers who had died as a result of infection. When I signed up as a volunteer with a local charity I was told they had had 700 responses, and it might be a while before I was needed. Keeping count of things can give a sense of security in times of great uncertainty. Of course, statistics need to be analysed and broken down to be understood, and that is not my task here! And though it sounds very simplistic, each of those deaths is somebody’s loved one. A few weeks ago my elderly uncle died; I’m sure that sadly many of you know of people who have passed away, or are fearful for vulnerable members of our community. I also know of at least a dozen people who have had CV19 and recovered, as will the vast majority of people infected. Here is something I wrote, suggesting that we are more than just the digits attached to our name by bureaucratic systems. It also reflects the crazy panic buying which featured in the initial panic about the approach of lockdown.
First comes the APGAR score.
Then SATS, UCAS rating maybe.
In time you acquire an interest rate
on your debt or mortgage, according to
whether you are social group A, B, C1 etc.
PINS for bank accounts. Passport number.
Yesterday the death toll from the virus was 778.
The widow could not know which of those numbers
represented the one man
she had spent sixty years of her life with.
We count as a blessing that she was able
to spend three hours with him
the night before his final breath.
At 8pm each Thursday,
we clap for our carers. There is more that I could say,
but please now excuse me:
I must go and count
how many toilet rolls I have left in the stash.
Sometimes when reflecting on anxieties I have that I am not ‘enough’ in some way, that I am failing to meet expectations, or when I’m worrying about how I will cope ‘if’… I try to hold on to the sense that I am sufficient: today I have sufficient (food, toilet paper, energy, compassion, humour …) for my needs.
My ‘other’ poet today is the Evangelist Luke (12.6-7).
Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Do not fear, therefore. You are of more value than many sparrows (Luke 12. 6-7).
What is enough? What could we be counting to help us manage our responses to CV19?