When a disaster has your family's fate attached to it, quarantine is the last thing you want

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Nthabi, mom Prescilla and sister-in-law Thabile Nhlapo battled Covid shortly after burying loved ones during the pandemic. Photo supplied
Nthabi, mom Prescilla and sister-in-law Thabile Nhlapo battled Covid shortly after burying loved ones during the pandemic. Photo supplied

When Covid-19 arrived in South Africa a year ago, I was already on edge, having started to worry in January 2020 already.

I remember that, long before South Africa's patient zero was discovered, I called my brother, who works in the health and safety sector, to ask him to order boxes of surgical masks.

I knew the coronavirus had the potential to be very deadly and it was a turning point in our lives. So I set about preparing as much as I could for the inevitable eventuality.

I even arranged a family meeting with my parents and siblings to discuss precautionary measures if South Africa went into lockdown. We went as far as discussing what should happen if one of us died.

Naturally, my family thought I was going overboard. Maybe they had a point, but I just wanted to ensure some level of normality and knew it would take a bit of planning.

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I upgraded my medical aid plan and reviewed my will. As a family, we agreed to stay in separate households until things were calmer. This was decided so that we act as caregivers if someone in one household became ill.

It was a solid enough plan that provided some comfort when the dreaded lockdown announcement eventually arrived. I was adequately prepared and so was my family. But I was not ready.

When a disaster has your family's fate attached to it, being quarantined is the last thing you want.

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Just three months into lockdown, I lost my father, Moses Mofeli Nhlapo, to the virus and several weeks later, I lost my paternal grandmother, Masechaba Neria Nhlapo. During that period, my mother, sister-in-law, other family members and I battled Covid-19. It was a mess. And in many ways, it still is.

Prescilla Nhlapo with late husband, Moses, who suc
Prescilla Nhlapo with late husband, Moses, who succumbed to Covid. Photo supplied

Fortunately, my father and grandmother both loved me as fiercely as I loved them and I have no regrets, other than my wish that they were with me just a little longer.

Being so close to death that it's almost palatable on the tip of your tongue, teaches you to appreciate the people who are still alive. You learn to value your own life, live a little better, see the bright side of ill-fitting clothing after Covid-19 weight gain, and understand that some of the things you thought were important in life, aren't.

Now I know better to value and love people more than things, laugh at myself and appreciate, even the mundane things, because I lived to be here for them.

* Nthabi Nhlapo is the editor of W24

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