If I survive this, I’ll be 80 next fall. I’m lucky to be fit and active. I live alone, walk two to five miles most days, have no heart or lung or blood problems, nor diabetes. I can even push up 60 times!
My garden borders a large enclosed coppice that is filled with bluebells in the spring. I can escape there and walk in isolation. So I’m lucky.
Thought of the day
“I wish it didn’t have to happen in my day,” said Frodo. “Me too,” said Gandalf, “and that goes for anyone who goes through such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us. ‘
From The Fellowship Of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (British writer, 1892-1973)
For the past five years, I visited a friend in a nursing home.
About 16 months ago, she died at the age of 92. I went back to say goodbye to the permanent staff I had met and three of the other residents.
When I left, one of them literally begged me not to sit with her. I did and she clung to my hand like a grim death.
So I asked the executives if it would help if I just kept visiting these three residents. (One of them is completely paralyzed by advanced MS and cannot do anything for themselves, not even food or drink).
Yes, they said. So that’s what I’ve been doing since then. But no more.
One of the caretakers is a sweet woman from Equatorial Guinea, about 30 years old. When I arrived a few weeks ago, she gave me a big hug – which she has done every time since. A lovely nice thing, don’t you think?
The last thing this young woman said last time was, “God bless you.”
Did she have a premonition? I will probably never see them again. How to deal with that thought?
Which leads me to ask – how the hell do you handle all this?
You are doing a great job helping others and now you have to face it all. I think you would need your own painful aunt.
But nothing can be better than what that sweet caregiver said to me, so I’ll just say, “God bless you.”
This week, Bel advises a reader who is afraid he will never see the needy people he cares about again
What a beautiful, moving letter. I am really grateful for your blessing and will send it back to you. And for everyone who reads.
Even for those who do not have a religious belief, the dictionary says that a blessing is “a wholesome thing for which one is grateful.”
We should all be grateful for the good wishes we send each other in this dark time and also for the good deeds. They illuminate the darkness, just as a single candle does in a dark room.
I was equally uplifted to see how health secretary Matt Hancock – who has since been tested positive for coronavirus – makes his announcement about the thousands of former NHS workers who are now returning to risk their lives to help the sick. They are the real heroes. May we never use the word about triumphant athletes again!
It is extremely nice of you to wonder how I will deal with the situation; you remind me of what beautiful readers the Mail has.
My answer is that (apart from concerns about my parents) I am extremely lucky with my husband and my job, not to mention my family at the end of the phone and three funny dogs making me smile. Plus, Liverpool girls are bouncy so don’t worry about me!
You just cheered me on, and that’s what we all need to do – even if it’s just the phone, sending crazy emails in emails or sharing online videos that make you laugh. They are all virtual hugs. And I’ll try to help a little bit here, so bring those letters on.
You have done such a great thing when visiting that nursing home and it is very sad that it has to stop.
But this unprecedented lock might not take too long, you know, so don’t even think about the final goodbye just yet. Imagine going back to that nursing home and the smile on their face when you enter.
Maybe you can call and see if there is a way to call FaceTime one of the residents. The helpful staff may be able to make this work. Just a thought.
In the meantime, you know all about fitness, so I don’t have to tell you. It’s great that you can escape outside and continue your lifelong exercise regimen, but I hope other elderly people at home like you will benefit from online help, for example: healthline.com/health/everyday-fitness/senior-workouts# minute strength -routine.
Now move on to those push-ups, Tony. I’ve been at my computer for too long, so do something for me!
This shocking crisis has shaken me up
Last Saturday you wrote that you would light a candle on Mother’s Day at 7:00 PM, as requested by the Archbishop of Canterbury. I lit a candle, but I may misunderstand your intentions, but I found it was not much comfort.
I’m just a mom today because I’m in the North West and my kids are in Plymouth and Cardiff. I don’t have a mother to interact with as she died ten years ago. My mother-in-law died last month. She had dementia and we took care of her for as long as possible.
We thought we would now have our time with our kids, but unfortunately that’s not the case. We feel like we can’t even grieve because there’s so much more to think about – trying to take care of ourselves and figure out how to get the groceries before everyone grabs them.
We have spent so much time helping our mothers during their illness and listening to their stories of the war years in the hope that we would never have to experience anything similar. But now that I see how selfish our society is … I really wonder what the future will be – or whether we’ll be here. If only companies put the welfare of the shoppers for profit.
Yes, we have technology and we use it more than we normally would, as long as our equipment keeps running.
Maybe I would be more optimistic if I didn’t have pre-existing mental health issues. The last time I went shopping and saw the empty shelves, I broke, so I can’t take it. There are restrictions on home shopping, so I’m really confused right now. Thank you for reading this.
Don’t worry, I read. You sound sad, bewildered and angry – all at once. Millions of others around the world will feel exactly the same, and worse.
I think it’s important to emphasize that you have a right to feel all those things and cry tears of real sadness that have changed our lives so drastically.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail …
Like you, I feel almost shocked even though we saw this coming. There is nothing to do but try our best, knowing it will pass.
The candle idea on Sunday at 7 p.m. came from two archbishops who thought burning candles would symbolize the belief that we are not just individuals, but parts of a whole (my words, not theirs).
When people are forced to be apart (like you and your kids, and the rest of us, too), it is more important than ever to stick to that thought. It expresses a profound truth about love for the family, but also about our communities.
One reader wrote, “The candle was burning!” And another told me, “I felt very emotional when I lit it, thinking about all the people doing this.” That’s how I felt.
So it was not so much about ‘comfort’ as about confirmation.
The fact that you have lit a candle also shows to me that even though you feel so disillusioned with people and despair about the future, you still took the time to do that little positive thing. It showed that you had the energy to respond and I am happy about that, especially since you find life so difficult.
Yes, people are selfish, but only a few people. As I always remember my old dad (who can get lyrical about the good old days), some people got together during the war, others were scammers, some were brave and kind, others selfish and mean.
When I saw pictures of empty shelves in the supermarket, it was no surprise: every student of human nature will know that good and evil have been in conflict since the Garden of Eden.
The more you accept that, the less stress you get from this. I do not suggest that you become “optimistic” because all your doubts and fears about the future are shared by many people.
Who can know what the future holds? That is why I advise again on “the serenity prayer” and some deep breathing if you panic.
You and your husband took care of your late mother-in-law, so there remains a big hole in your life that fills the current crisis with more grief, more exhaustion, and constant grief.
Get help from the Cruse charity (cruse.org.uk) and remember the helpline if you want to talk to someone (0808 808 1677).
Try to see if there are ways you can get groceries delivered. And supermarkets now have an agreed shopping time for the elderly, so you might be able to take advantage of that.
Make sure you talk to your family on the phone as much as possible, cry when you need to and tell yourself that you can stay strong for the sake of those who love you.
Tech unites us … until we meet again
My daughter instructed my husband to install WhatsApp on my phone. Ha! does she think I’m an inept elder?
So I did it myself (after … um … a little effort) and now I can chat with my daughter and daughter in law, enjoy pictures and videos of the grandchildren and say ‘Cheers’ when my son posts a picture of his hand with a gin and tonic.
Crazy but fun, and we need both foolishness and fun these days. How lucky that technology can unite us in this way. I have to take back all my old moans about it.
But one morning I came down a few days ago to write this column and heard my phone ping.
Please contact Bel
Bel answers weekly readers’ questions about emotional and relationship problems.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or send an email to [email protected]
If desired, a pseudonym is used.
Bel reads all letters but regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
My son Dan posted a link to a YouTube video of the great Vera Lynn who sang, “We’ll see each other again.”
I clicked it to hear that beautiful, warm, familiar voice pouring into my toy-filled office – redesigned as a playroom for the grandchildren who can’t come now.
“… I know we’ll see each other again on a sunny day
Just like you always do
Until the blue sky drives the dark clouds far away … “
Then nothing could stop the tears.
We don’t always have to be proud of our ‘stiff upper lip’. Sometimes it is good to have a very good cry to release tension. Either way, it’s a perfectly sensible response to events right now.
But then you just have to continue with what needs to be done. After watching the video, I thought of all those soldiers who left in 1939 to fight for our freedom against the evils of Nazism and suddenly felt humble and happy.
The mothers who said goodbye to their sons prayed that one day they would see them again, while I have mine at the end of the phone.
So sing with Dame Vera:
“After the rain has a rainbow, you see the rain disappear.
Don’t be afraid that we too have to wait for tomorrow’s goodbyes … ”
And hold that thought.