COVID-19 seems to be getting closer home, isn’t it? People in major metros in India are hearing of someone testing positive closer and closer home – someone in the street next to yours, or the apartment building next door, or even an apartment in your complex, and for the unfortunate few, right in your home. The lockdowns have not quite slowed the spread and it is here, and the thing with this particular disease is the degree of isolation that it calls for.
How can you really have the “In sickness” part of your vows of “In sickness and in health, till death do us apart,” when this is a sickness that can really bring death to anyone you love unless you stay apart? For most other common illnesses, even the seasonally dreaded ones like dengue and chikangunya, people in relationships stick together. There are loved ones who stay up mopping your fevered brows, taking your temperature every few hours, holding your hand and massaging your tired limbs, changing your sweat-soaked bedsheets and just really being there for you.
Nothing like that is possible here. For the ill, there is absolute isolation, and for the duration of the illness, there is little to no contact with their loved ones, except maybe through layers of plastic. We have seen images and stories of people really sick with this virus begging doctors and nurses for just some contact, even a small kiss on their forehead -- if not from their beloved, at least from the nearest human, but for the most part, no such luck. Till one is fully cured, the ill are under isolation, maybe with others who are also ill, but not with their beloved unless they are all ill and that is just even worse.
How do you love in times like this when there is little to no possibility of contact with your loved one?
In these difficult times, loving someone really requires us to see everything we do from the lens of our love for each other. Risks we might be willing to take just for ourselves may not be ones we might be willing to take once we see it from the lens of love. We might say for ourselves that we are cool with risking an unmasked, unprotected ride in a crowded vehicle just to save a few rupees, thinking we are in superb health and great immunity, but when we think of our beloved who we will be seeing later in the evening and how we would want to hug them and hold them, the act of love is in staying masked, taking care. The act of love is in trying one’s hardest to not fall ill at all in the first place.
If your beloved does fall ill despite everything, then the act of love is not in taking care of them and risking falling ill yourself, but to stay away and hold. Wait. Suffer the pain of the separation. Love in this sickness is a weird thing that may not look or feel like love usually does, but that’s what it takes this time around.(The writer is a counsellor with InnerSight)