Pam Pardy Ghent: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Pam Pardy Ghent: For Whom the Bell Tolls

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Anglican cleric and poet John Donne used that phrase in a sermon, referring to church bells signifying a death. “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent …. Any man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind … therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” How very timely. 

In these COVID-19 times, we are equal. It matters not how large ones circle, nor money or influence, rules are the rules. Period. No exceptions.

We all have a story

It all seems so inhuman as we try to save humanity. Loved ones dying alone. End of life decisions made over FaceTime. Last rites over the phone. Even funerals are solo affairs. Births too. From the cradle to the grave, these are very unpleasant unprecedented times.

We all have a personal story. A friend of mine, Joan, went to the emergency room with a headache and dizziness  Expecting to be seen, then sent home, she was rushed for a brain scan and prepped for immediate brain surgery. When her family dropped her off, they never expected that. In shock, they stood outside the hospital in tears, waving what could have been goodbye as she simply waved back. Her surgery went well.

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Rodney Lawlor, father of Alyssa Lawlor, was admitted to St. Claire’s in February. She visited her father at least twice every day, holding his hand as he fell asleep. That was until a month ago when she found out, because of COVID-19, she could no longer enter the facility. Her dad can’t speak because of tubes, but Lawlor says her father still communicated with her. “I knew when he was tired, when he wanted me to hold his hand, when he felt good, or when he didn’t. He was still my dad,” she says. 

Alyssa now spends her evenings parked below his seventh floor hospital room honking so he knows she’s still there. 

Sake of all mankind

Sometimes, one of the hospital staff will FaceTime her so they can see one another. “He looks so happy when he sees me. It totally changes his demeanour. He knows, when he hears that horn that I’m right outside,” she says, holding back tears. 

One day last week, the staff heard her honk and held up a sign, reminding her that her father loved her too. “It meant the world to me,” she said.

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In these strange times, hospital staff  are stepping in for family who cant be there, providing so much more than medical care. Nurses and doctors and other essential hospital workers are not only doing their jobs, they are becoming absolutely everything to each and every patient in their care. Just imagine. 

Joan is slowly recovering in hospital, awaiting word on what’s next. Alyssa’s dad is struggling and she fears having to make some tough decisions without the gift of a fond farewell.

And hospital staff? Treasures. Each and every last one of them.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have taken to making nose each Sunday to honour our essential workers. A symphony of church bells, car horns, cheers and hand clapping, lets them know that the work they do is truly recognized.

For whom does the bell toll? For those who have stepped in, and stepped up, when the rest of mankind must step back, for the sake of all mankind.

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Pam Pardy Ghent, The Herald’s Managing Editor, can be reached by emailing pghent@nfldherald.com

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