Dear reader,

Our ideas of what is and isn’t normal have been severely altered in the last two years. A global pandemic outbreak is not a new occurrence. The mandatory wearing of masks isn’t even a new occurrence. Yet, when it happened, we were not prepared to deal with all the ramifications. Life, however, goes on, even in the face of death. In South Africa the official end to our state of disaster is near, and The Department of Health has published new regulations under the National Health Act. This will, in theory, act as a long-term replacement for our state of disaster Covid regulations and attempt to manage the current Covid pandemic and future pandemics. What a future pandemic might look like – who knows? Nor do I know if we can be fully prepared for it.

I, for one, never thought the pandemic would be as devastating as it was. At Sonja Smith Elite Funeral Group, we did what we could by acquiring PPE, expanding our facilities, and hiring more staff, yet we were still overwhelmed as we tried to support the massive influx of deaths and bereaved families. I think the true magnitude of what was happening became a reality when the losses became personal – friends and family, staff members, then myself getting ill and my husband being hospitalized and all of us losing loved ones. It was all too much to bear, and I am not ashamed to say that I needed help.

I am incredibly grateful for the help and support my loved ones and I received. From the psychologist that supported me with Brain Recursive Therapy to the rest of the Sonja Smith Elite Funeral Group family that stood strong together. Even when staff morale was low, when we were faced with backlogs, lack of resources, support services being overwhelmed, and personal loss, you didn’t stop doing what needed to be done and you gave your best. For this I thank you.

The world seems to move forward from one crisis to the next that we are never quite ready to face. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine. Just as we are recovering, they have to stare death in the face again as their country is being destroyed. Yet in such despair, there are inspiring stories of survival, hope, and courage. In South Africa, we are not unaffected by these events, and our new version of normal can still not be defined. The long-term effects of Covid are only becoming apparent now, and scientists are continuing their efforts to understand it. Many still do not trust the available vaccines, and the fight against misinformation is ongoing. I am a funeral director, and I see people are at their lowest when they don’t know how they are going to move beyond what they feel.

What I do know, though, is this: as human beings, we have an amazing capacity for love, care, compassion, and hope.

I implore you to embrace that capacity as we move forward into whatever the future has in store for us and our country. In one way or another, we have all been affected by the past two years, but if we can treat each other with love and compassion, if we can care for each other and keep the flame of hope alive when things seem bleak, we will persevere and be stronger for what we still have to endure.

With love and encouragement,

Sonja Smith