It’s nearly 3 am on Christmas Eve, and for reasons known only to my hormones and neurology, I am wide awake and listening to the sound of decidedly un-Christmassy wind and rain, and scuffling rodents under the floor. The whole ‘not a creature is stirring…’ thing is not a thing in this house. We live in the countryside – in a situation that could be described as glorified camping – and rodents are ubiquitous. My mother couldn’t stay here for more than five minutes without booking herself into a Travelodge. My mother need not worry about rodents under my floor; she is 434 miles away, we’re all on lockdown, and, anyway, I am working. I need to get up in three hours, except I am already up.
A ‘frontline worker.’ I feel like a fraud. My NHS badge says otherwise, I suppose. But I am not saving lives. One might argue I am saving souls, but I don’t save anyone (or at least I am not the one doing the saving) I hold hands, stroke foreheads, speak quiet prayers, give gentle assurances, witness tears. Lots of tears. Mostly, I sit and breathe. A presence. Bearing witness to… human frailty, and human strength. The power of the body and the will to sustain that most miraculous of intangibles – the life-force. And oh, it is such a privilege, to be at this most intimate transition. Often when loved ones can’t be there. Often when they have just stepped out of the room for their first coffee in seven hours. Often when there is nobody.
And of course at Christmas, and especially this locked-down Christmas, it seems more poignant. Loved ones separated by gowns and masks and gloves, by care-home windows. Or by geography, as I am from mine. Our family Christmas will be via Zoom, as it will be for many. And my mind turns – as minds do at Christmas – to friends and loved ones I haven’t seen, whom I miss, even if we haven’t spoken for a while, for months. Maybe years…is it really that long? All the other humans I could have reached out to, and didn’t. All the conversations I would like to have. All the warm bodies I would like to hug. And I think of those I didn’t get a chance to see again.
It is all lapping around in my sensitive – wee hours of Christmas Eve morning – heart. A warm, amniotic sea… of Love. This is what cannot separate us. It is utterly tangible to me; here, at my kitchen table at 3 am, at those precious moments of dying, at the times of rawness and transition when I am perhaps most sensitive and attuned. And at all the other times too. It connects us all. Even – and perhaps especially – when we feel at our most separate.
So, I suppose this is the message I would send to all of you. I love you. You are loved. Have a blessed Christmas.