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Day Zero

What a surreal day. Tonight at midnight we go into lockdown. The concept means so many different things to so many people. In our world, it means that our Care Homes will be shut from the public, with only employees going in and out. The risks are frightening…

Four of the homes have decided to go into quarantine. No one will be allowed to enter the premises. Employees will stay on the premises for the next 21 days with residents. I wake up with a feeling of urgency…

My cousin Martin works at the Westin Grand Hotel in Cape Town. He offered and arranged for us to collect used linen from the hotel for employees who will move into the Care Homes. Friends rally to help – we collect four carloads, a trailer and two small truckloads of sheets, duvets, pillows, covers and gowns. The amount of stuff is quite overwhelming.

I take one of the loads to Stellenbosch where we deposit everything. From here, our senior staff will distribute to the homes. The roads are eerily quiet. People congregate at malls and shops to stock up. I decided to visit our managers at the homes that will go into quarantine.

Joggie, our manager at Vonke House, comes to the gate. No one is allowed inside, not even me. We stand on either side of the big metal gate, simply holding each other’s gaze. I cannot speak. Looking at Joggie I am overcome with emotion. Awe. Respect. Gratitude. Humility. “Ons gaan ok wees meneer. Moenie worry nie.” I leave without being able to say a word. The best I can do is to share a Namasté (I bow to the Divine in you) and walk away in tears.

At Robari I speak to Jacqui, our assistant manager. She is tiny, looking younger than she is, yet she exudes strength. Again, I am the one being reassured that they will be ne. Ju-Ann, the manager, says they opened the hair salon today, as GERATEC employees offered to do the resident’s hair!

At Silver Oaks, Marietjie and I are both equally emotional. They have prepared everything – tomorrow there will be a braai for the residents. I cannot believe that they actually made sosaties for all the residents for a braai!

Lynn and I have coffee at the mall, as I cannot enter their village. I feel such incredible support from each and every employee! There I thought I was going to see them to support them – yet I feel held with such grace and kindness by each and every one of them.

In Fish Hoek, the same applies. Our managers are strong, con dent, the employees positive. “Give us a permit, we will nd people to bring us to work”. “Meneer moenie worry nie, meneer ken ons mos”. On Chapman’s Peak, I have to pull off the road, I am so overcome with emotion…

We are facing a nightmare. We have no idea what to expect. We are all holding our breath. Everyone wonders in which home the virus will show up first. We are petrified. Yet, they carry on. Strong. Con dent.

I come home and crawl into bed with the dogs. Exhausted. At least the employees in lockdown will have beautiful sheets, pillows and duvets tonight. I am in awe of these (mostly) women and men who are prepared to sacrifice everything for the residents. They could choose to go on leave, to stay at home. Yet, they firmly volunteered to stay with the residents.

Tonight Victor and I are quiet at home. Messages keep on coming in, urging Victor to take a break and look after himself. Whatever lies ahead, we will be strong.

Our Elders will be held with love, kindness and grace, that I now know for sure!

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