This past year has been a time of profound loss in all sorts of ways. Many people have been bereaved, unable to be with loved ones as they died. Couples have had to cancel or postpone a wedding. Young people were unable to say goodbye to friends and teachers as they left school; the traditional rites of passage had to go virtual or be abandoned altogether. We have all missed hugging family and friends, travelling to work, visiting one another, going down the pub, going to the cinema, or a festival or a concert, chatting at the school gates, going to a sports match, worshipping in church, eating in a restaurant, meandering up a street or wandering around a shop, celebrating birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, having a hair-cut……We have lost jobs and businesses; we have lost routines, ways of living and loving that before the pandemic we simply took for granted.
Rich Waller, the head teacher of Hempsted Church of England Primary School, reflects:
Last year on Friday 20th March, at 3.15pm, we waved goodbye to our pupils as they left school for the weekend. Except, for most, it wasn’t just the weekend, it was for the rest of the school year. I remember watching them leave, uncertain what the next few days, weeks or even months would bring. For many of the staff and parents, it was a very emotional moment. Exactly one year today, the school was closed. But it wasn’t completely closed, we were open to the children of critical workers, those people who needed to keep working as the country battled the growing pandemic. Already a sense of community cohesion began to grow as we realised what needed to be done to support our village, our families and the children. As time went on, there were good days and bad days. For the children lucky enough to be in school, they had a great time – the spring and then the summer arrived and they had the run of the school and its grounds to themselves. But, we never forgot those who weren’t at school and we heard stories of how it was beginning to get harder and harder. When we reopened in September, we could feel the sense of relief as some form of normality returned. I would like to thank everyone who supported the school. The teachers, the support staff, and the admin team for their resilience throughout the lockdowns. The cleaners for helping to keep us safe and working. The catering team, for keeping the pupils in school fed and the volunteers in the village for delivering food parcels on a daily basis. Thank you to each and every one of you. But most of all, we must thank the children. We must not forget the sacrifices they had to make – they have been incredible throughout all of this. On behalf of the entire school, thank you!
This time last year, Hempsted Virtual Kindness was in its infancy. HVK volunteers have done amazing work throughout the pandemic. Sue Steggles-Cole writes:
Hempsted has always been an incredibly thoughtful and caring community, levels of which have grown and grown as the pandemic has become more prevalent. A year ago that caring side of our village started posting on Hempsted Village Facebook page, asking how they could help. And from those initial posts, Hempsted Virtual Kindness was formed. The whole community came together and key partnerships were formed with Gordon League, the local Foodbank, the local Church, Hempsted school and the city council, all pulling together as one to help those that needed support. We collected shopping, picked up prescriptions, ran a food bank, delivered school meals, donated lap tops to support home schooling and more. As we look back and reflect over the past 12 months, I’d like to thank the army of volunteers and key partnerships that have helped co-ordinate all the activities, and just remind those that need support we will continue to help.
This has been a year of enormous grief and bereavement. We all know someone who has tested positive for covid or is living with long covid today. It’s impossible to comprehend the huge number of those who have died with covid across our nation. During the year, thousands of other people have also died from other illnesses too. The pain of not being able to be with loved ones as they have died, to organise the sort of funeral we would have hoped for or to support family and friends who have been bereaved – that pain is very real. It makes the task of grieving so much harder. We remember daily in our prayers those who have died and reach out in solidarity and support to those who have been bereaved.
As we dare to hope that lockdown restrictions will be lifted, we are so thankful for all our keyworkers. As the vaccine programme rolls out, we are particularly thankful for the staff of our NHS. Local nurse, Debbie Woodfine, reflects:
It gives me great pride to reflect on the last 12 months on how the NHS has proved beyond doubt that it is one of our great successes and will continue to be for many years to come. I have been lucky enough to have been part of the NHS for over 30 years and know that as a community I am joined by many other colleagues who have worked so hard to keep us safe and secure from this terrible virus. Your support and so many loud claps which we had every week brought joy to our hearts and made us all feel so appreciated. As we reflect on the past 12 months, I am filled with hope that the roll-out of the vaccine by our NHS and GP Teams, along with much needed volunteers will bring us back together so we can once again enjoy each other’s company face-to-face. Everyone’s support has been supreme and on behalf of myself and my colleagues I thank you all.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. It is the week when we travel with Jesus through the last days of his life here on earth. We will find that the emotional roller coaster of fear, pain, community, suffering, death and resurrection of this past year will echo through the stories of Holy Week and Easter. We will be reminded that in all that we endure, Christ walks with us. As we recall again the depth of God’s love for us seen on the cross, we know that next Sunday we will celebrate the victory of life over death and hope over despair in and through the resurrection. We hold fast to hope. We pray for strength to persevere.
Rev Canon Nikki Arthy, Rector