By Kerri Jones
(a chat with my children)
Were you there when they called you that very last time?
Could you hear me?
Could you see me?
I pictured you here, beside me, with me.
I could feel you,
I could smell you.
I wasn’t alone as I drifted and dreamed
I could see you,
I could hear you.
So now I am gone. On the screens of your minds,
Can you see me?
Can you hear me?
I like to imagine, as you travel your lives,
I’ll be with you,
when you need me.
But feel free to leave when the time feels right –
just mute me,
During the COVID pandemic, starting in 2020, connectivity changed dramatically as everyone tried to connect for personal and professional meetings via the ether. ‘Can you hear me?’ and ‘can you see me?’ became standard openers. Zoom’s ‘chat’ function could be used to post messages where there was no opportunity or reason to speak. In the first 12 months, 125,000 people died, many without their loved ones beside them as they were not allowed to be there. Some relatives joined their dying family or friends using screens; Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom and connectivity of a different kind became an issue. In the extremes, both ridiculous and poignant.
I thought about whether I might be one of these deaths, but I wanted my wonderful children to know that I would have been fine alone, just thinking of them. Teasingly, I remind them sometimes that they will never be lucky enough to be completely free of me. Just like everyone who has ever lived, we are never rid of our parents, even if we never knew them. There lies immortality – we exist if someone thinks about us. My children’s burden will be that however long they live, I will be there within them as my parents are within me.
That is the miracle, the curse and the joke of infinity.
My creative writing usually stays in my head but the pandemic brought increased thoughts of mortality and, as my only important concerns were for my children, I committed to paper for once. I wanted to combine reassurance with the irony of the times and a touch of lightness if the outcome was negative.