April is the cruellest month

Strange, isn’t it, that the first line of T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land (1922) “April is the cruellest month” should strike such a chord in today’s world, be it an uncomfortable one.

What with the Government’s announcement of the extension of a nationwide lockdown and the prediction that Covid 19 would peak during the month of April, it may well indeed turn out to have been the cruellest month. Family traditions being turned upside down, the Sunday dinners at Nana and Grandad’s put on hold, crèches, schools, parks, cinemas, stores and churches closed.

Occasionally observed are Grannies and Grandads standing at doorways, while their adult sons or daughters communicate with them from a distance, either in the garden or at the gate. It has become a strange world.

We’ve all experienced the difficulty of measuring time during this global pandemic; the melting of one day into the next, the shift from March into April. The days all feel the same, the loss of structure and routine are tangible.

The birds have become part of my daily routine, watching the activity of the two friendly robins who have decided to build a nest in my shed. The morning bird song and evening television have indicated to me the importance of looking for peace in ways of life which seem simple. Birdwatch Ireland website activity has increased by 350% in the six weeks since our national shutdown began.

The Academy on Dublin’s Middle Abbey Street recently displayed a sign over the door “we just want a hug, just one”

As this crisis unfolds, and our places of worship are closed, we’re keeping the faith. For Christians and Jews it was very difficult as the most sacred of feasts, Easter and Passover, could not be marked in the usual way. Now Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, is also affected and none of the big gatherings will take place. The Christian churches, are now live-streaming services.

Like many workers, priests and pastors are also in the frontline, putting themselves at risk in comforting the sick. Thankfully all traditions have shown a willingness to adapt and in so doing our practices will live on in the next generation.

Social distancing is going to change the way we live. White House immunologist, Anthony Fauci, has called for an end to hand shaking and his recommendation was met with a great level of support.

Whatever the outcome, let’s hope and pray that all will be well. And if all is not well…then it’s not the end.

M. Maher