A Moment in Time

I sat there. Two metres away from the nearest chair. Face mask on. Holding a laminated sheet that said ‘WIPE THIS SEAT’. It would replace me when I stood up.

It was 9am. Staff bustled by briskly, getting things organised, plastic aprons rustling. They’re carrying small trays of items I can’t make out, the gubbins for the day, and a steaming mug to see them through a shift. Each person preparing their place – getting their station ready before announcing the first name to kick things off.

The phone call prompting my vaccination had come out of the blue two days before. “Can you come to the practice at 9 on Saturday morning?”

Here I was.

It was February 13th 2021.

Twelve months before, ‘COVID’ was a story from another country or two – China, Italy…maybe another one or two. I can’t now recall.

It was in the news, but it wasn’t THE news.

We were all oblivious to the whole new lexicon that was looming, almost ready to be unrolled – a dictionary for a new age; lockdown (full and partial), social distancing, self-isolation, key workers, Zoom meetings, home schooling, blended learning, shielding, sanitising stations, Eat Out to Help Out, bubbles, take away only, following the science, levels 1-4, Pfizer, Oxford Zeneca, teacher assessments, variant strains, lateral flow test, track and trace, you’re on mute…each one the mostly unwanted offspring of a global pandemic.

In that moment, on that chair, waiting for my jab, I thought of just how much had changed in such a short time. Planes grounded. Shop shutters rolled down. School doors closed. Exam papers unprinted. Football matches in empty echoing stadia.

And I thought of the decision-makers and the researchers who had got me to this point and felt fortunate for the speck of intimacy that was about to take place. My upcoming moment, one of millions that might begin to bring hope out of the hurt in a fear-filled world littered with plans on hold, where separated families have been reduced to communicating love through the closed windows of care homes. The beginning of an end to people being denied a goodbye or whose connection in the final minutes of life is through an i-pad held by a stranger. The curtain slowly coming down on all of the lives being lost and the sparsely attended face-masked funerals. And at the same time, I thought of the COVID-deniers and the vaccine refusers who would choose not to sit where I sat. I thought of them too.

Twelve months before, whoever we were, whatever we think now…no-one was aware of what was about to sweep over us – the young, the old, the ‘soon to be marrieds’, the about to be born, those heading to high school, the graduates, the business owners, the travellers, the grandparents – each one about to be affected in some way – no-one left untouched. Some knocked off their feet. Some finding new direction. Each one with pieces picked up and put back together in some form, but the shape all different.

I unbuttoned my shirt and pulled it off my shoulder. The marks of jabs from years gone by still there if you search hard enough, and a few inches away the two inch scar left by the line used during my chemo. Evidence that in some ways, despite everything, I had been here before.

And as the needle entered, I did all that I could do – exactly what I had done in the past when aspects of life were outwith my control – I prayed thankfulness and placed my grateful trust in others once again.