Tight Rope Decisions

The post below is reproduced by permission. It is posted anonymously and was published in an internal privately publication. It speaks deeply beyond the situation concerning decisions that have huge ramifications, and as it relates to the current pandemic speaks right into now. Knowing people who have lost loved ones to the virus, others who are still struggling with symptoms months after being tested positive, as well as those who have had the virus and recovered, all underlines how difficult an epoch we are living in. In difficult and easier times decisions that have ramifications remain.


The young girl in the back seat of our car stares out of the window. Her long hair frames a petit face that is almost completely covered by a large, surgical mask. A sad and strange silhouette in the encroaching darkness. This morning she was in lock down with her mother. Now she is being driven miles away from her home town by my husband and I. To the girl, we are surgically masked strangers, labelled foster carers. A Covid 19 related cardiac arrest has changed this 12 year old’s world in seconds.

Arriving home we view our small house and single bathroom. Protection from the virus is going to be impossible. We cannot wear PPE equipment 24/7. We cannot wear it in the bathroom.

We take our masks off and the action becomes a symbolic moment for me. Our exposed faces and the threat of the virus shows me, more clearly, that we have never been wholly in control of our lives. I also wonder how free we ever are from the false, ego masks we choose to wear. Masks that hide our truer selves from others.

The girl says, “I think it is my fault my mother died… If only I had called the ambulance earlier.”

Her self accusation and extreme loss, alongside our agony of not being able to physically touch her, is heart breaking.

We light a candle and pray together. The flickering flame mirrors our vulnerability and seems to connect us a little. For me, this quiet togetherness is both honouring and humbling.

The girl has a slight temperature and we offer her paracetamol and a hot drink before bed. I ask her if she has anything belonging to her mother with her. Something she can take to bed. Something of her mother’s she can hold. She says she has her mother’s rosary and then she climbs the stairs to her new bedroom.

I clear the kitchen, the death of the girl’s mother and the possibility of one of us falling ill or even dying is on my mind.

My teenage son looks into the kitchen and says, quite cheerfully, “You realise there are different forms of this virus and the one we’re exposing ourselves to killed someone? Just saying. Good night.”

Sometimes decisions are made on a tight rope between our responsibilities. Without hindsight to guide us we balance precariously on the rope, fearful of the consequences of our choices and, also, the judgements of ourselves and others. Self-forgiveness is difficult.

I blow the candle out and knock quietly on the girl’s door to say good night.

Over the next fourteen days we remain well and people commend us for our courage but if one of us had died, what then? What would people have said then?

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