Earlier this year I published a sequence called Quarantine Quatrains , whose seventh and final section was a requiem for those who have died during this pandemic and especially for the careworkers who gave their lives in looking after them. Today, as we keep All Souls Day, the day for remembering the dead with thanksgiving, I am posting this final part of my poem again, and I am conscious that I do so at the beginning of a second lockdown and the rising wave of further illness, a wave which will once more call for heroism in the NHS and amongst careworkers. The Quarantine Quatrains was published in a limited edition to raise funds for The Careworker’s Charity. That edition is almost completely sold out, but if you find this post helpful perhaps you would like to donate to the Careworker’s charity via This Page, rather than buying me a coffee.
Once more we are confronted by mind-numbing numbers and only the exercise of compassionate imagination can give us even a glimpse of the harrowing personal stories behind each one. When I began to hear our statistics mount on our own evening radio news, I found myself again and again in prayer, knowing that even though I only heard the numbers, God knows and loves and died for the people behind those numbers.
As usual you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the play button
At close of day I hear the gentle rain
Whilst experts on the radio explain
Mind-numbing numbers, rising by the day,
Cyphers of unimaginable pain
Each evening they announce the deadly toll
And patient voices calmly call the roll
I hear the numbers, cannot know the names
Behind each number, mind and heart and soul
Behind each number one belovèd face
A light in life whom no-one can replace,
Leaves on this world a signature, a trace,
A gleaning and a memory of grace
All loved and loving, carried to the grave
The ones whom every effort could not save
Amongst them all those carers whose strong love
Bought life for others with the lives they gave.
The sun sets and I find myself in prayer
Lifting aloft the sorrow that we share
Feeling for words of hope amidst despair
I voice my vespers through the quiet air:
O Christ who suffers with us, hold us close,
Deep in the secret garden of the rose,
Raise over us the banner of your love
And raise us up beyond our last repose.