Even as the postcards started arriving the signs of the second surge were present. The statistics are anywhere to be found but a retired colleague of my brother has done his own programming and has a useful site to look at the numbers if you need to: https://www.covibes.org

Back to the postcards. They are being collected in a box held at reception at Netcare Kingsway Hospital. 

I have collected twice and will check again next week. I feel like an old fashioned village postman.  It tugs at the memory of the film Il Postino, a beautiful film about how words can change lives.

Each time I took the pile of postcards to my office and left them in the corner of my empty desk. When my work day was over and I could focus, I sat alone and read each one. I cried easily at the intensity of emotions expressed about  how events had affected staff at the hospital. 

After each reading I went to the front desk where my receptionist Anina is protected behind Perspex barriers and shook my head in disbelief as I spoke  of the trauma. Anina scanned each one in so that the card was digitized, and from those files I was able to make the first collage that makes up the picture that accompanies this article.

One postcard ended simply: 

“No words.

Only emotions.”

There are so many emotions that we have all experienced to a greater or lesser degree, from closer or further than others. I could identify with all of them, from the anger to the zeitgeist of social distancing and lockdown of our new era.

The sense of loss is profound. Loss of family members and friends stab into your heart. The loss the nurses felt as they were the only ones to guide patients into the next world hurts so much that tears flow. 

There is anger. There is a sense of growth and achievement. There is an acknowledgement of lessons learnt. My writers have defined what is truly important to them. 

Despair makes an appearance but is won over by hope.

So why H.O.P.E.?

Hold On Pandemics End.

Keep hope alive by wearing your mask and social distancing. Think very carefully about your festive season travels if you really have to. Remember it’s as much about not contracting the virus as much as it is about not infecting someone else.

4 thoughts on “H.O.P.E.

  1. Dearest Basil

    I read your beautifully scripted post while listening to R.E.Ms song “Everybody hurts”, and marvelled at the similar chord that both struck: even in times of loss and deep grief, there is hope. You may recall one of the lines in the song: “Hold on…..”

    Notwithstanding the tremendous deprivation and austerity of this past year, the postcard collage is remarkably devoid of pity or defeatism. There is humour, even a hint of defiance and definitely a renewed sense of purpose. You have provided a wonderful platform for people to share their sentiments, emotional growth and self-discovery. I have no doubt that this has also been a therapeutic experience for most.

    In your message you mentioned the poignant film, Il Postino, filmed on location at the charming town of Positano, and alluded to the transformative power of words. But words need a catalyst. Just as Pablo Neruda was able to broaden the horizons of the illiterate postman by his writings and the way he conducted his life, so too have you empowered people to rise above their fears. Through your writings and personal conduct, you have inspired and motivated many individuals. All credit to you for your tremendous compassion and leadership during these unprecedented times.


  2. This postcard project is wonderful. Two weeks ago somebody said to me, “never waste a good pandemic, learn from it”. They did not mean to be flippant, but meant for us to use it to grow, become stronger, find new ways to connect with others, upskill ourselves, become more resilient. I think that the impact that COVID and the economic recession has had on people’s mental well being has been greatly understated. Of course preventing, treating and learning about this virus is foremost, however your project and your blog posts have allowed the most vulnerable to reflect and cathart (I hope “cathart” is a word).


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