Among the occurrences during the heart of the pandemic, one could argue that other than 9/11, it was the first time people died en masse during the information age, many suddenly, without the proper chance to say goodbye and without any inkling of the sense of loss that was to ensure.
'The final goodbye: How COVID-19 challenged us, changed and evolved our think around mortality and exploring the afterline'
The COVID pandemic impacted society in an unprecedented way. Although the initial effects and subsequent return to the new normal were warmly welcomed, there are ongoing lingering and lasting changes to life as we know it.
The entire world stopped, and fear, anxiety, and frustration became widespread seemingly overnight, with tragic, personal loss becoming part of everyday news. For those of us that lost loved ones, friends, coworkers, and other acquaintances or heard second-hand about such losses, these sudden deaths shook us to the core. These events also raised curiosity about the afterlife, given that human mortality became front and center; even people who never thought about their deaths or the loss of their loved ones tried to get their houses in order. As seen with the recent wars in Iran and Afghanistan, people witnessed these terrible things directly and on the internet and TV.
The Pandemic raised society's awareness of the possibility of sudden death and parting without proper goodbyes to a new level. COVID-19 patients were isolated from their families and loved ones and often quickly isolated from staff and human contact. This instant seclusion had to be excruciating for those experiencing it as patients while simultaneously heartbreaking for their family and friends. For those illnesses resulting in death, funerals were often delayed, over Zoom, or perhaps didn't occur at all, leaving thousands without any sense of closure.
In Catherine Nadal's book, "And She Danced by the Light of the Moon: Behind the Eyes of a Psychic Medium in New York City," she explores the impacts of sudden death without closure. Catherine often reflects on a last strained conversation with her ex-boyfriend. During a heated discussion, she blurted out, "See you in Heaven," after asking him to no longer contact her. Their relationship had petered out amid a stretch of unnecessary drama, and old emotions were still raw for her. Two short years later, she heard of his sudden passing, wishing the last conversation wasn't so unpleasant. This final encounter jogged her memory of her parents' heated discussion the morning her Mom passed away. Her father was critically pointing out a mishap with the laundry, and he was left with the same dreadful regret for allowing himself to be angered over something unimportant. We should all think twice before we part with a friend, acquaintance, or loved one. What if what we say is the last thing they'll hear? Such a thought should give us pause and be another reason for a peaceful parting.
For anyone we encounter, how we treat them should matter. For those we love, how we leave them is especially important. Imagine if you dearly loved someone, but right before they died, you argued with them or left something critically important unsaid. We all need to think about how we leave those close to us at the end of a conversation. Any contact with them could be for the very last time. Amongst the "positive" things learned from the Pandemic, heightened awareness of the fragility of life and our mortality should cause us to consider this with every encounter, especially with those we love.
People struggle with not always having a good, last memory of those they love that depart the living. Some family members passed on after being dropped off with COVID-19 and never saw or perhaps talked to their family members again. Depending on location in the world, options like FaceTime were unavailable, and perhaps the last time they were seen, they were being loaded into an ambulance. Regardless, those that live through the sudden death of those they care about describe the feeling as something that hits them as a "painful hole in their chest, like something that can't be replaced is missing from within them."
This life situation is a key reason Catherine - a psychic, medium, and clairvoyant - helps people connect with those who passed on behalf of their family members. For those who could not say goodbye, reconnecting with those in the beyond is a priceless encounter. In many of her readings, the spirits of the departed say they are talking and keep talking, but the living can't hear them. Perhaps there was a big communication problem while they were alive; for example, if they suffered from COVID-19, their last hours might have been spent on a respirator. Because hearing is believed to be the last sense to be lost, doctors often encourage people to say goodbye even with conditions like brain death because people can hear. People need to hear words of love and encouragement before they go, something we can all keep in mind.
A fast and unexpected separation leading to a final goodbye varies. Sudden death or a serious illness leading to a non-communicative state are different situations. However, both can prevent closure even if the person is still alive because of the instant loss of two-way communication. Many new rules during COVID-19 prevented people from acting on their emotions, saying their final goodbyes, attending funerals and burials, and experiencing proper closure. Control was taken away, and isolation was mandated. This sudden separation was experienced differently by different groups of people. In certain cultures, families are very close, live together, and see each other often. For those living this way, instant separation was particularly tragic.
Regardless of circumstances, the final goodbye cannot be taken for granted. We should treat every interaction with care, showing love to those around us because we never know when such an encounter could be our last.
Follow Catherine Nadal on Instagram at @CatWitchNYC.
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