October 11 isn't “Freedom Day” in New South Wales. It is a reminder of all we have lost.

October 11 isn’t “Freedom Day” in New South Wales. It is a reminder of all we have lost.

freedom day

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has expressed that she is confident Sydney will reopen on October 11. 

Sydneysiders all around me, still locked in their homes, are jumping up and down with the unencumbered joy of a small child. Rightly so, as those of us living in Sydney have been hidden away behind our four walls for three months. 

Somehow, though, I just cannot share their enthusiasm. 

Instead, I am mourning. 

I am mourning the loss of everything this pandemic has so unrelentingly and meticulously ravished, leaving deep struggle, sickness, anger and disconnection in its wake. 

I am mourning everything that has been taken from us. First, grander joys were taken away. Trips around the globe cancelled, stadiums once filled with spectators now empty, theatre halls silent, with only a ghost light as a reminder of the shared experience being missed.

But then it became so much more than that. Businesses unable to pay their rent, let alone their staff. Artists struggling with a shameful lack of support from the government. Friendships falling apart because that tenuous Zoom glue that was meant to hold us together simply did not. Face-to-face interaction and connection can never be replaced by technology. 

Smiles behind masks unnoticed on the street so that joyful moment of paying it forward to a stranger is lost. Weddings left uncelebrated and church services no longer able to offer spiritual support and guidance to parishioners. Dreams cancelled. Goals put on hold. Time with friends and family no longer an option, with families living through two years of not being able to hug and hold each other. Life – as it once was – has ceased to exist.

When children began to suffer, it became even more devastating. Our children have forgotten how to socialise and the sentence, “no, we can’t, COVID-19” has become a regularly occurring sentence in our households. Friends, family and loved ones have had to seek help from therapists for depression, loneliness and family violence because no one is truly coping. The inability to be at the bedside of a loved one who is ill or –  God forbid – dying leaves a hole in our hearts where only a natural sense of loss, closure and love should be. There is nothing natural about this. 

Hours every day have been wasted as we stare at our screens waiting to hear the next devastating piece of news from our politicians and health professionals, experts in whom we have lost all trust, wondering if we could possibly take one more blow. No one is coping with the constant fear and panic. No one.

So to me, this so-called “Freedom Day” that has so many celebrating with near desperation, is fast becoming a vicious reminder of all that we have lost. 

But despite this heaviness in my heart, I am still trying my damndest to hold on to one silver lining. That this day will also be a reminder that freedom in all forms is priceless. A smile, a hug, a family dinner, will never again be taken for granted. 

And that knowledge, that feeling of love and gratitude for the things that truly matter the most can never be taken away.

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