My sister is not a statistic

Statistics. So cold and harsh. So black and white. Or so it seems for most of the time. Figures are just that, bland numbers that do not touch us directly, relating to the inanimate rather than the animate.

But statistics of deaths are another matter.

As day in, day out, the news networks report on the tally for today’s dead from the virus, we are in danger of becoming immune from what they really mean … each one a precious life.

The tragic daily role-call of death, captured in merely a couple of minutes, has shaken me to the core. It’s as if so many forget that behind each individual number is a person. No longer alive. Mourned by so many, loved ones who could not even be by their side in their last moments.

One lady sought refuge within her grief to pen a poem in memory of her beloved sister. A poem that speaks for all who have lost a family member these months, and alas the months ahead.

A poem that should survive and be a legacy of this cruel time.

Dorothy Duffy wrote the poem in honour of her sister Rose ‘Billy’ Mitchell who died alone in a nursing home in the UK as a result of the virus. Rose and Dorothy are both of Irish descent, living in England.

Dorothy (right) & Rose

Below is Dorothy Duffy’s poem and beneath is a radio interview with her where she reads her work aloud. Do listen and follow the words of the poem for an unforgettable, heartfelt and moving anthem to loss and suffering.

Rose Duffy

My sister is not a statistic

Tomorrow, when the latest Deathometer of Covid is announced
in sonorous tones,
Whilst all the bodies still mount and curl towards the middle of the curve
Heaped one atop and alongside the other
My sister will be among those numbers, among the throwaway lines
Among the platitudes and lowered eyes,
an older person with underlying health conditions,
A pitiful way to lay rest the bare bones of a life.

My sister is not a statistic 

Her underlying conditions were
Belief in the essential goodness of mankind
Uproarious laughter
A storyteller
A survivor
A comforter
A force of nature
And so much more

My sister is not a statistic 

She died without the soft touch of a loved one’s hand
Without the feathered kiss upon her forehead
Without the muted murmur of familiar family voices gathered around her bed,
Without the gentle roar of laughter that comes with memories recalled
Evoked from a time that already seems distant, when we were connected by the simplicity
of touch, of voice, of presence.

My sister is not a statistic 

She was a woman who spanned the seven ages.
A mother
A grandmother
A great grandmother
A sister
A Friend
An aunt
A carer
A giver

My sister is not a statistic

And so, she joins the mounting thousands

They are not statistics on the Deathometer of Covid

They are the wives, mothers, children, fathers, sisters, brothers,
The layers of all our loved ones
If she could, believe me when I say, she would hold every last one of your loved ones, croon
to and comfort them and say – you were loved.
Whilst we who have been left behind mourn deep, keening the loss, the injustice, the rage.
One day we will smile and laugh again, we will remember with joy that, once, we shared a
life, we knew joy and survived sadness.

You are my sister…….. and I love you.

Copyright Dorothy Duffy 2020

Finally, although Dorothy has featured on numerous radio and television/youtube interviews and many of you might have already seen and heard her poem, I am grateful to Roy McCarthy for sharing a post about her poem on his blog Back on the Rock.

150 thoughts on “My sister is not a statistic

  1. Oh. As you can imagine, this poem sent me to tears. Our loved ones are NOT a statistic, and thanks to those of us who are storytellers, we write about our loved ones so that they become real in the eyes of many. Thanks for sharing this poem and writing this glorious post, Annika.

    1. Dear Pam, I thought of you when I first saw this poem and it must echo so many of your current emotions – I feel you and your loss. ❤️ Yes, it must never be forgotten that these are people real and it is so important to keep alive the reality of those lost. hugs galore winging their way to you. xxxx

      ps. Your post this morning was so beautiful, filled with love, emotion and deeply honest. Here’s to all our ‘buckles’ in our lives. 🌺 (I’ll write more on yours soon.)

    1. Elizabeth, this poem must have touched you especially much. I love how this poem captures the wonderful character of Dorothy’s sister, how she was a ‘force of nature/And so much more’!

    1. Lavinia, beautifully said and my heart likewise goes out to all those who have lost someone dear during this time … it is so tragic that this feels like only the beginning.

  2. It is indeed a heartfelt poem. The first time I listened to it, I couldn’t stop crying. As mentioned in some comments here, the thought of a loved dying alone in isolation is scary and probably the most painful experience. Keep well, dear Annika! ❤

    1. Khaya, I too was in tears the first time I heard and read the poem … and its impact never diminishes after numerous readings. The isolation and disconnection from each other have been such a huge feature of this virus on all levels in our lives and ultimately, tragically, in one’s last moments with the illness. Beyond sad. You keep well too, my friend. xx ❤️

  3. Dear Annika, I am feeling the impact of the news and recent statistics with escalating numbers, and like you say “each one a precious life.” Exceptionally tragic when “loved ones who could not even be by their side in their last moments.” A powerful, moving poem written with such love. I worked with a dental hygienist, a friend of mine, who was seriously ill with Covid and in the hospital in Victoria for over one month. She had been at the Dental Conference in Vancouver (which I used to attend every year). I think 40 initial cases came from that Conference and people did die. Her family did not know whether she would come home. She is usually a very private lady and about one month ago she and her husband were interviewed in local and on Canadian news sites. One of her messages is how she is a face behind the statistics. The gravity of the virus even in healthy people and how we should not be complacent. Thank you for sharing a face and a poignant story, Annika. Take care and stay safe.

    1. Erica, thank goodness your friend was okay in the end and lived to share her story nationwide. This is an illness that strikes any age and with the number so staggering in certain parts of the world we need people like her and Dorothy’s poem here that every single figure of a new case or a death is a person. Who had everything to live for. Oh, this is definitely not a time for complacency; personally I’m very cautious and super-vigilant – and just hope it is enough. Take care, my friend and hope you can enjoy much time with your wonderful family. hugs xx ❤️

      1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Annika. We both know people from around the world facing similar emotions. My magic wand does not seem to be working.🙂I will stay in the present moment (try) and of course I appreciate a great deal. Enjoy your garden and your family. xx❤️

    1. Jo, you’re right, the cruelty of the disease is horrific enough but to see some of the responses to it across the globe is a deep shame on civilization. During so many other horrors people have been able to find comfort with each other, the inability to do this at the most extreme of time is too hard to contemplate … yet for so many a terrible reality.

  4. Oh my… this is so heartbreaking and powerful beyond words. The world desperately needs this compassion and dignified grace. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Annika. This is sure to touch the hearts of all who read it. Blessings and (((hugs))) across the miles. Stay well. xo

    1. Natalie, bless you for your heartfelt comment. It is touching how you pick up on Dorothy’s ‘compassion and dignified grace’ – so true. She radiates with this even in the midst of her grief and anger. love & hugs winging their way back to you. Keep Safe and well, Natalie! xx ❤️

  5. I’m so glad you shared this, Annika. This is one of the many horrors of COVID and maybe the worst–the solitary deaths in nursing homes. I can’t think of anything worse. Thank you.

    1. Jacqui, not only are the countless deaths in the nursing homes a tragedy but even more so that many could have been avoided if measures had been put in place in time. No one should be without a loved one by their side in their last moments. I know a very small number of places are trying to make it possible to visit sick family members in hospital but this is still the exception rather than the rule.

        1. Jacqui, it is more a matter of proportions of bad decisions. I watch the news from the States in disbelief and shock. Here cases are very low for now and life slowly returning to a new normal – but still very cautious. Different decisions could have been made in March and saved many lives.

  6. What a gut wrenching, heartbreaking scenario when society amid this horrible crisis is reduced to numbers and statistics. I loved her poem, her poignant words to her beautiful late sister and it’s what we all need to remember, that there are people like you and I behind these “stats”. Such a sad time. Thank you for a beautiful heartfelt post Annika in these strange troubled times. Take care and stay well and strong my friend. xx 💙

    1. Miriam, gut-wrenching is the word for the world today and the fact of how it is becoming one of statistics of deaths. The numbers beggar belief and belie the fact that each one is a human being. Oh, these are the strangest of times, surreal yet too appallingly real … it is so odd how we have many moments of ‘normal’ in our homes yet this continues, often seemingly endless. I hope you’re bearing up under the new restrictions and that Victoria’s cases fall quickly.

      Thank you, I’m managing for the most to keep strong and positive … luckily well so far. I saw Erica sharing part of your post – deservedly so and always an inspiration for us all. hugs xx ❤️

      1. Glad you’re keeping strong and positive Annika. It’s needed more than ever now isn’t it? I fear our state is heading into complete stage 4 lockdown soon. Just can’t fathom how we got to this. It does feel very much surreal and I have to hold on tight to positivity amongst all the media scare mongering.
        Thank you for your kind words about my post. We all do our bit don’t we to shine a light in these dark times. Stay well my friend. Hugs back. xx ❤️

    1. Me neither, Brigid … if I think about it too much I would collapse … even this poem had me in tears. It raises such an important point it was just one I was compelled to share her. Take care. xx

    1. Toni, thank you for reading! The matter of the daily and almost casual statistics of death was heartbreaking to hear … Dorothy’s poem captures the message of the terrible individual loss with beauty and raw directness.

  7. hilarymb

    Hi Annika – this was wonderful and so important … we are all people and will always be so … a number doesn’t do us justice … thank you – amazing poem … Hilary

    1. Yes, so many, seem to have forgotten the human side of the statistics so this poem was more timely than ever. I hope it touches many hearts and makes many realise that it’s just not numbers. Thank you so much for reading and your comment, Jennie. xx ps. how is it looking with your school for this coming new school year? I hear there is a lot of conflict of which way teaching will go in August? Here all schools have been told to accept all students … hmmm ….

      1. You’re welcome, Annika. I hope it touches many hearts, too. Schools here haven’t decided anything yet because the guidelines haven’t been announced. They have until mid August to figure out what to do. Every school district has different thoughts, such as splitting the class in half and each alternates between going to school and distance learning, whether it’s days or weeks at a time. I feel sorry for parents, as they can’t plan their lives. Your state sounds too open, doesn’t it?

        1. Jennie, here in the UK I worry things are definitely opening too quickly, although massive testing has meant immediate local lockdowns. Seems to be working so far but see what the Autumn brings. You keep safe, my friend. It’s not easy days for anyone and I know how as a teacher you were always there for your students, to lend a hand, share a book etc.

    1. Barbara, the loneliness faced by those so gravely ill and the helplessness of those left behind is the true horror facing many … Dorothy captures the essence of this tragedy with great eloquence and beauty.

  8. Annika, thank you so much for this post and bringing the attention that Dorothy Duffy’s poem paid tribute to her sister Rose. Rose is not a statistic. None of us, one of our loved ones are just a number. A wonderful share! ❤

    1. Miriam, absolutely! Dorothy’s poem is a powerful reminder to those who seem to have forgotten that behind each number is a person, one who has a full life and who leaves behind so many to mourn in desperate circumstances. A poem I just had to share as it touches on subject that’s been upsetting me for months, Take care xx

  9. Behind the Story

    Even here in the United States, where almost 138,000 people have already died, this pandemic is not taken seriously by many people. For some reason, for some, it still feels far away–someone else’s problem. This poem says so clearly that it is real, and each individual death is real. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    1. Nikki, the sense of immediacy in the poem is incredible and yes, one would hope this wakens others to the tragedy unfolding in our midst. It beggars belief how so many feel this does not affect them but imagine the reality is sadly dawning on many now. Hope you are keeping well and safe. Xx

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful poem, Annika and for telling the sisters’ story of love and loss. I had not heard the poem before as I am trying to avoid social media as much as possible. I hope you are safe and well xx

    1. Clare, the sisters love and care for each other shines out in the poem, a warmth and love for life that is so immediate and vibrant it makes the loss even harder to comprehend. This was poem I felt compelled to share here. Researching the post I see she had appeared on the major news networks in the U.K.k Ireland and US but I’d missed these and am thankful I came across it on a blog. Thank you, we are all well so far but still taking it cautiously … just overjoyed to be reunited with my mother! A huge blessing. Hope you and the family are well and enjoying life as much as is possible. Xx

    1. Colleen, raw is definitely the word and this the emotion of Dorothy. The power and energy of the poem is intense. Bless you for thinking of me. Take very good care of yourself. Xx

    1. Natalie, absolutely … it is a horrendous amount of suffering around the globe … so many losing their lives whilst alone, family members desperate and unable to be by their side. Dorothy’s point is a powerful reminder if ever one was needed and it seems that is the case, that numbers are not just that, rather human beings. Hope you’re bearing up okay and keeping safe, Natalie! xx

    1. Debby, thank you so much for sharing … a poem that should be read as widely as possible. Hope you’re keeping well and safe. We are so far, not extending our activities by much yet … I prefer the cautious approach and always lots to keep busy with at home. hugs xx ❤️

      1. I absolutely agree Annika, I’ve shared around on my pages. ❤ And same here, lying low. Our country thankfully, is doing a great job. Toronto isn't even opened yet other than essential workers, but the surrounding suburbs are in phase 2 openings, so at least I drove north a bit for a haircut, lol. But we've been masked since March here, and nobody makes a stink about them. So we're coasting, thanks. Stay safe and stay masked my friend! ❤ xx

  11. This tribute to Rose “Billy” scrapes my heart. Dorothy understands that it is people who are dying of this terrible pandemic, not numbers or graphs, and that we must grasp each loss as the depth and breadth of this disease before we can conquer it. May her memories of her dear sister, may the memories of your loved ones, bring her and you comfort.

    1. Sharon, in a world where people seem to have become mere numbers, this poem was an injection of much needed humanity, reinforcing that many still feel deeply and keenly the unfolding tragedy. How true that we “must grasp each loss as the depth and breadth of this disease before we can conquer it.” Keep well and safe, my dear friend! Xx

  12. It’s heart-wrenching, Annika. You’re right about everything here.
    It’s not unlike the way they reported on wars when I was a child. Each night I sat in the living room floor glued in horror to the news as they told how many had been killed in battle. I think to many people those statistics didn’t mean much. Now, I feel the same way, with this new, different death toll… Be well, be happy. Hugs on the wing.

    1. Teagan, you raise an interesting point about the way death statistics are released in today’s world is similar to those of the role call of those killed in the war. I’ve never experienced the latter but imagine the cold-hearted impersonal delivery is heartbreaking beyond belief, every ‘number’ an individual lost forever. Keep safe and well! Hugs xx

    1. Janice, I too felt that this is a very important poem as soon as I read it and should stand for our time. The loneliness and utter isolation in dying and grief is incomprehensible yet Dorothy captures it perfectly here.

  13. We live in a time of uncertainty. As a global community, we are on a journey that we never thought we would experience. Every day is precious, every friendship and connection a treasure, every life irreplaceable. Hugs!

    1. Rebecca, this is has to be the greatest uncertainty for a long time and I think the aspect of isolation whilst experiencing such tragedy is heartbreaking to so many. It can be positive how new connections are forged, friendships created but we can’t help but long to be close to loved ones, to our friends and family. Hugs xx

  14. This is such a beautiful and heart wrenching tribute to a much loved sister as well as the many of others who have died and are deemed expendable. I hate statistics because they are so impersonal. Thank you for sharing this wonderful work of art in writing.

    1. Marlene, it is amazing how there is so much beauty in a poem of such sadness and loss. As you say the very personal nature of death becomes the impersonal in a cold summary of statistics and it is dehumanising to those who have lost their lives and those left behind to grieve. A poem I felt compelled to share here with you all. Hope you are well and safe! X

    1. Bette, as soon as I read the poem I knew I wanted to share it here with everyone … a universal message from her individual pain and grief. It is stunningly beautiful and intimate, yet global in its message.

  15. The sadness of Dorothy’s poem leaves me breathless, Annika. A beautiful and heartbreaking tribute to her sister, Rose. This is all so devastating as the numbers of lost loved ones mount, and it’s hard not to become overwhelmed by the stress and sorrow that seems to fill the very air. When I studied “death and dying” in school to become a grief counselor, we learned that for each death there are an average of 8 people who are deeply, intimately impacted by the loss. And many more than that when death is untimely. Statistics don’t mention the number of grievers, the devastation those left behind and the way death can ripple through a family’s daily life through time. Thanks for sharing this. It’s vital to remember that every statistic was a person with a future and a family.

    1. Diana, your knowledge and experience as a grief counsellor highlights even more the deep scars left by the far too early passing of so many people, of the grief touching those closest. I had no idea that this was even more so when death is untimely.

      How true that “ it’s hard not to become overwhelmed by the stress and sorrow that seems to fill the very air” … I find myself drifting between hope and despair, finding joy in the moments where all this is temporarily forgotten in an activity or two.

      I too found myself breathless after reading Dorothy’s poem, it speaks directly from her heart to ours, the pain sheer, the truth absolute. It felt important to share it here and I’m moved by everyone’s thoughts here … the power and energy of collective caring.

      1. I also drift between hope and despair, Annika. It feels like a roller-coaster between remembering how dark things are, and then moments of forgetfulness when an activity feels almost “normal.” It’s disorienting. The US is entering a very dark time.

    1. Inese, it is heartbreaking indeed and the thought of being unable to be with a loved one in their final moments is tragic. On top of this the denial by some of current events is incomprehensible. Hope you’re keeping well and safe! X

  16. Incredibly moving, Annika. I have seen that people quickly grow adjusted to these sorts of statistics. I see it in South Africa where our 58 deaths and 114 rapes a day are just accepted and people sit by in cars and watch others get attacked and mugged without getting involved.

    1. Robbie, that is truly horrifying figures in South Africa … I’m shocked and lost for words. It sounds like a state of lawlessness, not something that comes across on the news. I realised virus cases were increasing there but obviously huge other issues besides. Yes, I found the poem heartwrenching and on a topic that’s saddened me this whole time – Dorothy captures it perfectly whilst suffering her own tragic loss.

      1. It is a beautiful poem, Annika. Sadly, South Africa is a mess and the educated are immigrating. Two of my colleagues announced their resignation ans immigration plans at the ed of June. Both senor specialists whose skills cannot be replaced.

  17. We can easily get lost in numbers when a thousand dead a day in one city seems normal. Dorothy Duffy’s poem beautifully and touchingly reminds us that not only are those who died because of the virus not statistics but neither are the loved ones left behind. There are real broken hearts mourning a loved one. This was a beautiful post, Annika.

    1. Carol, yes, lost in number and a bit lost overall I think. Dorothy’s poem is a powerful reminder of the individual lives lost, the pain wrought on those surviving, the life before, the life after for those left alive, mourning. So many broken hearts around the world.

    1. Thank you … I wanted to share this very special poem and it touched on a topic that has upset me since all this started – the daily statistic reeled off as if shopping prices.

  18. Such a beautiful heartfelt poem about such a sad situation. To be robbed of the comfort of loved ones when passing, or the opportunity of comforting a passing loved one, is tragic. The thought of it is one of the things that upsets me most. It is happening, over and over and over again, world wide, but until it touches close to home, the pain goes unrecognised.

    1. Norah, I think the pain is unfathomable to all those who have not had to endure it … yet it’s something I can’t stop thinking about these day. The poem captures with beauty, heart, anger and sadness the utter sense of helplessness and tragedy. One repeated over and over across the globe.

    1. Janet, that’s so true. I’ve noticed here in the UK (where I think you live) that ever since the cessation of the daily briefings, it is now nigh impossible to get news of latest figures of cases or deaths … none seem suddenly important.

  19. How heartbreaking and a good reminder that this is very real. I’m afraid those who have not been directly affected by the virus seem to treat it like a news story that couldn’t happen to them. Thanks for sharing. xo

    1. Darlene, I too have found that some who are either in denial or simply are unbothered by the virus – something that completely astounds me and beggar’s belief. One should never need a reminder of the reality of the present world but I agree, the poem brings home the tragic truth directly to the reader. Just one I felt compelled to share here.

  20. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way the Covid statistics are being reeled off on the news every day like the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Qualifying the deaths with “older person with underlying health conditions” is even more unconscionable, suggesting that these people are expendable. Dororthy’s heart-wrenching poem has been sorely needed. I am so sorry she had to lose her beloved sister the way she did.

    1. Liz, your eloquent comment says it all. I detest how the news almost with joy reels off a lower number than the day before … as if it’s something to rejoice. The ‘underlying health conditions’ is indeed unconscionable and a carte blanch to not care or be concerned, and always the addition of a 2 or 3 without such a condition. Does it matter!??? It is desperately tragic how her sister’s loss in such dire circumstances caused Dorothy to pen this poem, hopefully, it will touch many and help others realise the gravity of the current world situation.

    1. Jill, I feel if I think about it too much I will break. I’ve talked about this with friends and we all become lost for words – the pain for all immense and unfathomable. Dorothy captures the tragic loss, and despair of her sister being ‘just one more number’ with incredible grace and eloquence. hugs ❤️

    1. Mary, this was just a poem I had to share on my blog – one that will stay me a long time. Btw. thank you for your additional words on the retweet – I keep forgetting to put additional information on the tweet panel and it does make a big difference.

    1. Alison, you capture the double tragedy here exactly; the indescribably loneliness of both the person ill and those not able to visit – so tragic indeed. Once I read the poem I knew immediately it was one I wanted to share with everyone here. Take care! xx

  21. As you well say, the dead in the pandemic are already considered as statistics and nothing more. So the poem is the reflection of deep pain alone. It leaves a bitter taste in knowing that a close relative dies alone. Indescribable pain. Not to believe that we have come to consider death as one more number on the endless list of the dead.
    It can not be understood. But it is real.

    1. Manuel, your final two sentences sum up the present all so well. We have no ability to fully grasp the figures yet it is all too real. I talked to many during this time and the inability to be near a loved one as they are so sick and dying sounds unbearable, yet it happens daily, countless times around the globe. Indescribable pain indeed; a pain Dorothy tries to capture in her poem.

  22. This post is so beautiful and heartfelt, Annika. Loved the reality in the poetic words, we are not statistics but human beings who are love, compassion, kindness, hugs and to leave them on their own to die this is so sad. The whole world has been moving only towards statistics.

    1. Kamal, your beautiful and heartfelt comment says it all … yes, since when did it all become about statistics and not the person? At the beginning of this, there were tributes to those who had lost their lives, pictures – nothing now. Heart-wrenching to die without loves ones near, as described so eloquently by Dorothy and the heartache for the families is unimaginable. Take care, xx ❤️

  23. We are still reeling from the trauma of having a loved one, fighting for her life in hospital and being unable to be there for her… She was lucky, and came home a week later but so many don’t… and we pray for them all…

    1. Anita & Jaye, I feel so much for you and your fear as your loved one was in the hospital – one of the lucky ones to be home again yet I realise there are often many complications so often only the start of recovery. Wishing you all well and safe, hope you can be reunited in person with your loved one now/soon. hugs xx❤️

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