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The reverend Dr Isabelle Hamley, chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury.
Good morning. Like many long term Covid suffers I count the days of illness. Today is day 108. When I first became ill, I had a bit of a cough, a bit of a temperature, so I followed the advice and didn’t worry too much. I trusted the early narrative that said, “Covid is a mild illness for the vast majority of people. The small proportion of patients, many with pre-existing conditions, will need hospitalisation but most of you will be just fine in a couple of weeks”. I learned to my dismay, that for me, as for tens of thousands of others in the UK, this wasn’t the case at all. I developed pneumonia. Three months on, I still struggle with severe chest pain, debilitating fatigue, muscle aches and regular relapses. I cannot go back to work full time. No one can tell me when or if I will get better. And so the announcement on Sunday that the NHS is setting up a service to aid long term recovery was met with enormous relief by many others. I hope it is the beginning of a new narrative about Covid. Narratives matter. They shape our expectations of ourselves and how we relate to others. As I started going out for a very slow walk every day, I would invariably meet kind people who said, “How are you? You must be getting better by now.” How confused and disappointed they were when I wasn’t able to give good news. Understanding Covid as a long-term chronic condition is a much harder narrative to hold. It requires us to learn to live with pain, uncertainty and fragility. It requires us to do something human beings often struggle with, to walk with others for the long haul. One of my favourite stories in the bible is that of Job. Job goes from being incredible fortunate to losing everything. His wealth, his loved ones, his health. To beginning with, his friends gather round and mourn with him, but after a week they have had enough. They start to look for a way out, explaining away what happened, finding meaning in Job’s continued plague, even blaming him. The book of Job is deeply realistic. Human beings need meaning and certainty to make life manageable. The friends are fighting their own battle with fear, Job is fighting his with meaninglessness and trauma. Job never finds out why he suffered, instead he meets with God face to face and finds solace in his presence. This is an invitation for us to consider how we hold each other’s pain and prepare ourselves to walk alongside loved ones, not for a week or two but for the long haul.
And that was thought for the day with the Rev Isabelle Hamley