The opening verses of ‘The Parting Glass’ has played at the end of ‘Waking Ned Devine’ and during a rare quiet scene in ‘The Walking Dead.’ I have, perhaps, three versions of this tune of Spotify off the top of my head, maybe more. A dive into its origins uncovered scottish origins and more lyrics yet the Irish find themselves associated with the song, again referring to the end of ‘Waking Ned Devine.’
No matter it’s origins, it’s a melancholy song sung at funerals, the speaker knowing the time has come to depart trying to comfort those left behind. Hozier sung this version to an empty studio, on a day a health care worker died of COVID. This was in March and it feels like we have sung songs like it over and over again.
Manitoba, Winnipeg in particular, moved to removing some measures within code red. People can go for haircuts, but I will wait a few weeks before making an appointment and the essential/nonessential divide has lifted. While trying to figure what I can get versus what I can get via curbside pick up felt exhauting, again, I stayed home all weekend. Trepidation is my new mode as I feel unsure of going out, much of what I want to do still not allowed like going to the gym, donating to thrift shops working on limited hours, especially for one organization I like to give items to knowing people have the option to take what they need or want.
I thought a lot about the COVID memorial done by the Biden administration during inauguration, the first acknowledgement of the dead during the crisis in the US. I hear honesty in Biden’s voice yet there’s comfort. I don’t see confort from the man in charge of my province, the Prime Minister does speak with compassion and I am not disregarding our national efforts. Provincially, it’s another story. I nearly wanted to pick up my computer and throw it whenever sports analogies are used. Our Premier used to be an athlete and seems to remain stuck in those years. Our Health Minister, oh lord, well besides calling senior’s death ‘unavoidable‘ then accusing doctors of ‘causing chaos’ you can tell the leadership by who that person surrounds themselves with during an issue. (The Health Minister was reassigned and we have two women now running parts of the health portfolio. That is another issue.)
I don’t want treacly words just an acknowledge this must be hard as things change or remain unclear, dealing with COVID deniers and the COVID fundamentalists. To know if someone gets sick or dies, people will look for the thing not done to cause it. This moment has tested what I believed and dad’s passing began during the first lockdown. He didn’t die of COVID but he’s collatorial damage for what was happening in long term care. Those people, our seniors, are the people this song resonates. I felt lucky and I also felt guilty for having the time with dad, however small, to be there for his final breath. Knowing people are dying alone and health care workers shoulder those final moments has lead to an anger I didn’t know I had. How we treat our sick and dead shows how a society functions in addition to how we treat our vulnerable members of society. Health care workers can’t feed families or pay bills by their caring alone. I don’t need a coach, I need a leader, I need a Premier who has to stop bellyaching about our Prime Minister and start working on some solutions with him.
For now, I fill my glass and make a toast:
To families who lost members to COVID, the world seems to want to move on while you felt stunned. I see you. To health care workers, the ones with protocols before they even hug their families, the nurses see the results of past cuts under this administration, to international nurses who want so badly to help but they can’t even take the exam to get accredited. Fill your glasses, remember the departed, and step forward even if the first step is a crawl.