Death has started its agonizing walk among us as we have just witnessed three lives being snatched away by the coronavirus, within a week. Our impulsive rush to refer to the departed as ‘the first three’ betrays a certain social impatience to skip forward to the end of the terrible episode like this was all a disturbing movie.
The elderly woman and the two men who left us deserve more than just a cursory mention while we update our Covid-19 datafiles. We must not pass over their deaths like an inevitable, if lamentable, footnote in the book of the pandemic.
The three lived more than 250 human years and, given their eminent ages, they must have carried abundant memories of joys and pains, pleasures and fears, ambitions and regrets. That their lives had to be cut down by an as-yet uncontrollable disease is a sorrow that all the country must bear together with their families. The deceased lady and two gentlemen join another 120,000 victims around the world – a sobering loss of life considering the speed and effectiveness with which this agent of death moves.
We have been rightly advised that the infection would ask of some the highest price, and the families of vulnerable people, especially, have been dreading this protracted situation more than anyone else. In perhaps the most infamously crude terms, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that “many people will lose their loved ones before their time”, and we saw this week that he sadly could as well have been addressing his own family and friends directly in that press conference. Science, health authorities, and the experience of other nations have been slowly preparing us for the event of casualties. But if we cannot be surprised at the death of three of our fellow citizens, neither must we be indifferent.
Dying in the age of social distancing is an excruciating passage. For patients, who can see their own demise but not their loved ones. And for families, who can feel the pain of helplessness but not the soothing touch of their relatives.
As the Maltese community has just commemorated what is arguably the most notable death in history; we cannot allow ourselves to move on casually from the death of those who could not live long enough to see the virus beaten.