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April Month of Grim Anniversaries, Families Cope with Loss of Loved Ones to Covid-19

PTI |
April this year witnessed a series of mournings and grim anniversaries marking the deaths of a large number of Covid victims in Delhi last year.
COVID-19

Image for representational purpose. Credit: The Indian Express

New Delhi: Delhi-based journalist Eric Massey says he has lost faith in the idea of God after fate snatched away his mother after she contracted coronavirus infection last year in April amid the deadly second wave of the pandemic which had wreaked a havoc in the city.

The 30-year-old scribe, whose brother and sister also had been admitted to a hospital in Rohini during the COVID-19 wave dominated by the Delta variant, recalled how the three siblings had spoken last with their mother on a family video call, on her birthday on April 22 last year before losing her two days later to alleged "oxygen shortage" at a private facility.

"We prayed all our lives. We prayed so hard when my mom got infected and admitted to a hospital. But, my mom and other good people died as if there was no tomorrow. Now, I don't have much faith in the idea of God, and whether He exists. Families after families just suffered terribly in the second wave," he said.

Massey, who had lost his father few years ago, said his family had planned a memorial service on April 23 for her mother, Delphin Massey, a home maker, who died aged 61 on April 24 last year at Jaipur Golden Hospital, to mark both her birth and death anniversaries, but due to rising Covid cases and he himself having contracted the infection recently, the plan has been put on hold.

"During the second wave, after my mother's death, we had to struggle to bury her mortal remains. No graveyard was willing to accept it, finally we took a call to cremate her at a crematorium, but the priest initially refused her as we are Christian. We finally convinced him that we had no other choice left, even though our faith calls for burial of the dead," Massey told PTI.

And, after the cremation amid a sea of funeral pyres, "we had to take care of my brother and sister, who were admitted in a hospital in Rohini, we didn't even get time to grieve our mother's loss," he said.

Masseys are among the thousands of families in Delhi who have lost either their immediate members or other loved ones since the outbreak of the pandemic in India in early 2020, and still trying to cope with the loss of a father, a mother, or in many cases both parents or several kin, leaving behind shattered hopes, dreams and families.

April this year, perhaps witnessed a series of mournings and grim anniversaries marking deaths of a large number of Covid victims in Delhi last year, moments that may provide some degree of catharsis to family members, who did not get time to mourn in 2021 after losing their near and dear ones.

Ravish Chawla, 37, a city-based businessman, held a 'hawan' (holy fire) on April 26 at his house in east Delhi, to mark the first death anniversary of his wife, who had died after nearly eight-month pregnancy due to Covid.

"All hell had broken loose! People were scrambling to get beds for their family members, many died in streets or in ambulances. And, corona snatched away my wife and our unborn child too," he recalled with a heavy heart.

"The unborn child was declared dead first, and the foetus was removed via C-section, and my wife died a day later, while being on oxygen support," Chawla said.

He lives in Surya Niketan area with his parents and a four-and-a-half-year-old son, unable to put the painful past behind.

"It's a sea of grief. If I open to speak, we will get washed away in it, but life goes on, and so we have to move forward. And, we are trying to do everything to realise the dream she had had for the family," he added.

Chawla was married in 2016 and his wife, died aged 33 at a private hospital in Faridabad.

"She would get herself regularly checked-up as she was a doctor, and was particular about her vitamin and other intakes. At times, she would wear a PPE kit while going to a market, and Covid didn't spare her either," he said in a despondent tone.

Delhi had reeled under the,brutal second wave of the pandemic that had swept the country early 2021, claiming a massive number of lives daily.

Over 28,000 cases and 277 deaths were recorded on April 20 last year; rising to 306 fatalities on April 22. On May 3, 2021 the city has registered a record 448 deaths, as per the official data.

Delhi on Saturday recorded 1,520 fresh COVID-19 cases and one death, while the positivity rate stood at 5.10 per cent, according to data shared by the state health department.

Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, a senior consultant at Apollo Hospital, a Covid survivor, who has gone through the experience of seeing death almost every day at work last April at the facility, while treating patients, said, "after a certain point of time, it's difficult to remain detached, as doctors are also humans".

"One loss that really shook me was of a mutual friend of my wife and I, who was in a very top position in the corporate firm, and a very jolly fellow who loved good food and enjoyed life, and he died helplessly on a ventilator. It disturbed me. Another death, which happened in 2020, of a senior doctor at AIIMS, whom I considered my mentor and someone to whom I would refer my patients to, if I was not able to handle it, was really painful, and felt a personal loss," he told PTI.

Eric Massey says, a year on, he still hasn't found closure with her mother's death.

"We had buried the ashes of mom's mortal remains at the joint grave of my maternal grandfather and grandmother in Maurice Nagar, as we couldn't get space for a proper grave in the city. Her memories will haunt us, everyday, but life has to go on, and I feel my mother's soul would be at greater ease, if we help those who have suffered due to Covid, but are less fortunate," he said. 

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