Our group 78 picture, taken before most of us left Jerusalem, shows us gathered behind a box from a popular brand of Mexican beer. You guessed it! Corona! We knew we’d be unforgettable in the annals of EA History, as the group that had to leave at the onset of the Corona virus response in Palestine and Israel. It was the sign of our times.
It was also the name called out as we passed by, first in our West Bank placements, then in Jerusalem. We began to have a sense of ourselves as ‘different’. Singled out as threats in the minds of those who saw us. For me a sense of what it might be like to be Palestinian in a Eurocentric world. Or Indigenous in a Canadian City. While I was unhappy about leaving without ‘closure’, without the opportunity to visit with folk I’d wanted to learn more from, both in Palestine and Israel, I was also relieved. I’d be getting home before who knows what blames and restrictions fell on travelers and movement.
Arriving at the Victoria Airport near midnight on Tuesday the 10th of March, I was met by Laurel and given the opportunity to drive for the first time since leaving on December 26th. The trip home gave the opportunity to catch up on news and to plan for the next day in Courtenay, where Brenna was giving birth to Isaac. A planned birth by inducement, as Brenna had been having some complications. Isaac would arrive 3 weeks ahead of schedule.
Because Covid-19 concerns were high in our community (I’d been hearing from people at church and in my family), I called both the provincial 811 line and the Duncan Health Unit, asking what I should do as a returned traveller. Canada Border Services hadn’t said much or asked more than if I’d travelled to China. The nurses I spoke to asked if I’d travelled to China, Italy or Iran. I said no, telling them where I had been. They asked if I was experiencing any symptoms (sore throat, congestion, difficulty breathing, temperature increase). I hadn’t. They advised me to self-monitor for symptoms and to self-isolate if they were present.
I was thankful to have that information when my dad called to tell me his brother (Uncle Glen – my predecessor in ministry) was very concerned about any travelling I might do to see him. He had a terminal diagnosis and had decided to use MAID on March 17th. Uncle Glen, a man I admire, love and care for deeply, who has taught me a lot about the practicalities of ministry – he’s a very practical man, very much about the details – was worried I might be infected and might spread the infection to others. I called him, he expressed his concern, I told him what I’d been advised to do. He told me not to come. That was a bit difficult but understandable.
Isaac arrived intact, healthy, small, cute, and calling. A living reminder of Love’s presence on earth, he mews his way into our hearts. Rapidly surpassing his birth weight (5 pounds, ten ounces) he grows and grows and grows. His parents, Brenna and Jeremiah, proud, happy, joyful and (as we were in our time) a bit afraid of the new responsibilities thrust upon them. Laurel and I (Nana and Papa) get to buy stuff. Hopefully we’ll be in more contact with him as the situation changes.
Like my uncle and parents, folk at church were concerned about my presence, giving clear indications that I was not to enter the place until at least the two weeks of self-monitoring were over. I did see some people one day when, while walking the dog past the church, I stopped to chat with folk gathered near the front entrance, while I stood on the sidewalk. I decided to semi-isolate, taking long walks with the dog and stopping in to shop from time to time while observing the protocols of the establishments I patronized (mainly groceries and drugstores, although there was one beer stop).
Uncle Glen moved his date ahead, trying to stay in front of the pain and to save his family from the difficulty he’d seem many families go through during his time in ministry. So many bedsides, so much waiting drawn out of them. Mom and Dad and my brother, Kent, were there with him, together with his wife, their children and grandchildren. The small family service afterwards was broadcast on Youtube, thanks to my brother’s skills as a photo-journalist. Watching, I wondered how many more worship services would be like this one as our acceptable social spaces begin to shrink.
My space had not, apparently, shrunk enough. I received an email from a friend (haven’t seen her in person yet) who told me she’d been called by someone who knows me. I’d been seen ‘downtown’. The viewer was shocked and very angry. Could I tell my friend what I was doing, so she could pass it along? I complied and committed to staying out of downtown and stores until my two week self-monitoring period is over (midnight, March 23rd).
To be continued…