It was 23 March 2020 and like the rest of the country, I was waiting for the Prime Minister to announce the extent of lockdown measures, to combat Covid-19. Suddenly, I heard the familiar sound of a text message and picked up my phone to read the NHS had identified me as someone “at risk of severe illness” of the Coronavirus, advising me to remain at home for a minimum of twelve weeks. To my surprise, I was one of the 1.5 million people categorised as “extremely vulnerable”, requiring special measures. This was news to me, as although I’d been diagnosed with an underlying health condition five years earlier, treatment hadn’t been required and I had lived a normal life ever since. Consequently, the text message sent a cold chill down my spine, as I digested the implications of my predicament.
In the days that followed, fear reached fever pitch, with media reports that those with severe illnesses would not be admitted to hospital or offered a ventilator bed. Some patients were even sent “do not resuscitate” forms in the event their condition deteriorated. It was clear that with scarce resources, difficult decisions had to be made and priority would be given to healthier patients. At first I absorbed the news stoically and reconciled myself to the rationale, but as the death toll mounted, anxiety began to creep in, as I contemplated the possibility of my demise.
That night, I retired to bed with a sense of foreboding and reflected on what lay behind it. Was it a fear of death or was it simply that I didn’t want to die alone (in the event I was admitted to hospital)? As I lay mulling over the issue, I realised it was the latter. I had unequivocal faith and had no fear of death. I accepted death was part of life and possibly the greatest incentive to live fully and happily. I also believed life was a gift from God and God would decide when my journey ended, not a clinical diagnosis. If my time had come, no amount of medical intervention could save me. It didn’t mean that I wanted to die; after all who wants to die, but it liberated me from worrying about the “what ifs”.
However, my equanimity wasn’t just founded in religious belief, but in my deep love for God. Having spent a lifetime seeking God, I had developed an irrepressible, searing love for Him. Our relationship had strengthened and deepened over time and I believed death would mean an emotive reunion with my beloved companion, who eagerly awaited my return. Of course, I appreciated my family wouldn’t share this perspective and understood the inevitable pain and suffering which would follow. However, if death was the vehicle and God the destination, I had nothing to fear and could face it with a peaceful heart. And with that thought embedded at the forefront of my mind, I turned over and fell into a deep, untroubled sleep.