Letters to the Editor.

Some silver linings to an otherwise dreadful year

Sister’s recovery and family Zoom meetings improve the atmosphere

On Feb. 29, 2020, my partner and I moved from an acreage in South Shawnigan to a populated sub-division in Chemainus. It was a major downsize and a very different lifestyle but we felt we were ready.

Then we all know what happened. COVID hit within days of our move and worse was to come with England being hit so hard, my friends and family who had planned visits that summer were regretfully having to cancel. We had moved away from people we’d known for a long time, to a strange area, and were effectively isolated from the world. My partner’s children live on the mainland and mine in Vancouver and Jamaica. The future looked a little bleak.

Then we realized that being quarantined when you’ve just moved means you get on with it! We unpacked, arranged and rearranged. Threw out old utilities and bought new ones. Decorated, cleaned, scrubbed, walked the dogs – because there was little else to do. No one interrupted us, there were no distractions, it was all done in a flash.

We had been made to feel welcome by friendly and delightful neighbours from the outset. Even when someone walked by the house, they would introduce themselves, welcome us to the neighbourhood and give us a warm smile and we wished we could organize an open house so that we could invite everyone. But the COVID situation just went on and on, seeming to improve and raising our hopes only to become much worse and plunge us into more restrictions. Frankly, I was wondering if our decision to move at all had been wise.

Then two things happened that made me reassess the situation.

At the end of October in England, my only sister suddenly collapsed with heart failure, not COVID related. The prognosis was bleak. I could not get to see her in the short time they predicted she had left as restrictions were very tight in the U.K. and now her whole family had been summoned to her bedside.

Hanging on, she was eventually relocated to a hospice where we awaited the inevitable end. I’d been very close to my sister and my brother-in-law and knew he was suffering badly but I was powerless. Air Canada would fly me because of the circumstances but I was required to self-isolate for 14 days. They didn’t think I had that long. Then came the call that she had made a sudden and miraculous turn and was improving. Unbelievably, within days she was able to get out of bed and was gaining mobility. Next thing I knew she was going home and, against all odds, I spoke to her, live and in person, on Christmas Eve, in her own living room.

As if this wasn’t enough to make me rethink my opinion of 2020 as the worst year in my memory, on Christmas Day my daughter in Vancouver organized a Zoom meeting for me, her brother in Jamaica and herself. It was marvelous. A different kind of miracle than the recovery of my sister but a miracle nonetheless for someone like me. There we all were on screen, sharing Christmas Day as a family for the first time in 13 years.

We were all so excited by it that we had a repeat performance on New Year’s Eve.

So in a nutshell, although there have been some awful repercussions of this virus, it has also made me really appreciate some of the more insignificant daily habits I’d begun to take for granted. Being forced to make the most of small things I have realized how lucky I am to live where I do among kind, caring people and in an age that shrinks the world so that we can, figuratively speaking, reach out and touch one another in real time. 2020 wasn’t so bad to me. It picked me up, it shook me but it put me down with a stroke of my hair. Now, it said, that’s how bad it can be, so go forward with a better attitude and smell the roses.

Penny Astley,



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