Many of you will have seen the press coverage of the death of my father-in-law Darrell Blakeley who died last Friday of coronavirus. I’d like to share some of the “behind the scenes” with you this week in a series of posts. Some of the stories will shock you. This is what it is really like to live in the eye of the storm where the government rules for death and funerals change daily. Why did someone try to silence his death? What does the death certificate actually say? Are we to be allowed to cremate him or will he be buried or left in the morgue until further notice? Why did we agree to talk to the media?
Today I’d like to share why we fought back when they tried to silence us.
When Darrell died he was alone, in hospital, in isolation in an air locked room. We could not stay, and we longed to comfort him. We felt so powerless. In lieu of a funeral I created the Wall of Kindness to commemorate Darrell who believed that people should help each other. We asked you to join in by posting an act of kindness given or received and to share it. Behind the scenes we were experiencing that “social” isolation equalled the right to take more than you need, to fight to gain resources, to take actions based upon our fears. Potentially to do harm to others. I wanted people to think not of what they could stockpile, but of how they could take care of the more vulnerable people in the community. We didn’t need flowers. I made a poster and Darrell’s church shared it on their facebook page.
What surprised us was that it went viral. Though that was fabulous. I guess I touched upon a moment. The press noted my post and ran it on their digital media. The phone calls from journalists poured in and we politely declined interviews. Eventually, we agreed to my friend, Alexandra Rucki of the Manchester Evening News, doing an article on the Wall of Kindness and how it was a true reflection of the way Darrell lived his life. It was just a local news story anyway and we were only one of the families who were now suffering.
At this point we learned that someone was impersonating us and trying to stop the story reaching the wider media.
On Monday Aj and I were curating the images for my book about the transgender community. We spread prints all over the floor of the studio and chatted about how this book will give visibility to the people who sat for me and the importance of creating that voice. We chatted about my new work with women who live in shame and suffer domestic violence and abuse and the need to break that silence. Why did someone wish to silence kindness too?
Jon wanted to speak out about our experience of watching Darrell die with coronavirus. We agreed that increasing the reach of the story was a way to combat our words being silenced and our Facebook posts being reported as breaking the guidelines. How is a post about kindness obscene or false news? Kindness became a story in every newspaper and TV station all the way to The New York Post. Panorama, Dispatches and the BBC asked for in depth interviews but the agenda was changing now. The tone moved to stories about fearing coronavirus and we did not need to be part of that.
Tomorrow I will share out concerns with the death certificate.
IN A WORLD WHERE YOU CAN BE ANYTHING BE KIND - it says that on my favourite yoga top!