It was permission to work from home. It was a cause of global uncertainty and inconvenience. It was stats. It was small talk. It was a trending hashtag. It was memes. It was an excuse to buy new books and call old friends.
Last week, as it did for so many others, COVID-19 took away my day-to-day freedoms. This week, on Monday at 3:20 am AEST, it took away my dad, who passed away alone in a Chicago hospital within less than 48 hours of being admitted.
I’m writing this because I can’t write a eulogy.
Other than a couple of Facebook posts from compassionate family friends, my dad’s death – and life – will largely be forgotten – rolled in with the thousands of other coronavirus victims who now exist as little more than line graphs splashed across screens around the world.
But here’s what I won’t forget:
Dying in a global pandemic is an inhumane way to pass away.
My dad was far from perfect, but no one deserves the indignity of dying alone.
On my first panicked call with him in the hospital, I asked outrightly if he was scared, he chuckled and sighed and said: “yeah, a little.” He told me at least four times that he was alone and said “people in spacesuits” had to bring him the phone.
He couldn’t have a priest give a blessing. But he answered all my family’s questions and thanked us each for calling. It wasn’t much, but apparently, that was enough.
Deathbeds bring out the best in people.
My last two conversations with him were the best I’d had in years. At Christmas, I had to remind him who I was. Having spent the past two decades in the vicious grip of alcoholism, he’d said and done and not done a lot of things that created distance between himself and others who knew him.
But this week, when diagnosed with an even more gripping illness, Dad told the nurse to give his ventilator to “someone who deserves it more”.
That’s the Jon Danno I want the world to remember.
Making death arrangements over Zoom is awkward.
So is getting virtual hugs. Teaching your teary mum how to unmute herself is endearing. 2020 is weird.
Isolation is a shared experience.
And time zones are irrelevant. Ironically, I’ve never felt more loved or less alone than I have this week.
Whether you’ve lost your father or just your everyday freedom, COVID-19 is impacting all of us in ways we can’t comprehend. I mourn for those out of work. The people who’ve lost jobs and small businesses and work VISAs.