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When „Good Morning“ became good mourning

Transnational family life in the times of Corona

One of the first things I do in the morn­ing, after get­ting myself a glass of water, is chat with my sis­ter in law. Most days it is not real­ly chat­ting, since she will have writ­ten her mesages to me at 2:30 in the morn­ing (CET) and I will write mine around 8, when she is already busy again prepar­ing lunch. My sis­ter in law lives in Cal­cut­ta and I live in Berlin, both born and raised in the coun­tries we live in. The 4 hour time lag between those adds to my priv­i­lege if you see it as such, since I usu­al­ly receive her mes­sages first and start my day feel­ing con­nect­ed and blessed by the emo­tion­al sup­port of a fam­i­ly mem­ber whom I also call my friend.

Although it does­n’t hap­pen at the same time, I always imag­ine her sit­ting at her din­ing room table alone, hav­ing her tea with­out milk, enjoy­ing and shar­ing the mag­ic of this ear­ly morn­ing hour with me and some oth­er cousins and in-laws, while my break­fast is sim­mer­ing on my stove. Usu­al­ly the first thing we write to each oth­er is „Good Morn­ing“. This has become a cher­ished rit­u­al for me. It sets the tone not only for the fol­low­ing inquieries about the weath­er, oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers‘ health, the tasks we are going to spend the rest of the day with, the occa­sion­al cat and dog videos, but also for the day as it unfolds in the offline world.

One of these days, right after „Good Morn­ing“, she sent me a chart with the stages of mourn­ing. In these last months when the news were full of this glob­al threat, we had a lot of com­mon things to think and talk about. Whether and how to go shop­ping for veg­eta­bles, whether to vis­it old­er rel­a­tives on their birth­days, salary cuts, lock­down rules and the like. Some­times we chat­ted a lot because there was a lot to catch up on, some­times we wrote very lit­tle to each oth­er because there was not much good news to tell. Some­times I don’t write much because send­ing pos­i­tive mes­sages does not seem very thought­ful or help­ful. I do feel that this prob­lem we all have in com­mon now sep­a­rates us more than it unites us, or makes us feel our sep­a­ra­tion in a way that is not eas­i­ly bridged by feel­go­od quotes.

Even now I feel that it is hard to write about the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion with Covid and eco­nom­ic cri­sis with­out mak­ing myself or any­one who will read this feel worse than before. The load is so huge and it is, as always, dis­trib­uted so uneven­ly. We are both liv­ing and observ­ing the sit­u­a­tion in our coun­tries from places of priv­i­lege, but here fear is almost over and there it is real­ly com­ing clos­er. We both have access to med­ical treat­ment, but I’m not sur­round­ed by peo­ple who don’t. We have both expe­ri­enced lock­down, but here it was rel­a­tive­ly soft and easy to com­ply with (if you have a home to stay in, that is). We are both wor­ried for our aging rel­a­tives, but not in the same way. We are both mak­ing plans for the case of a bad eco­nom­ic cri­sis, but not with the same urgency. I don’t feel the need to go into mourn­ing.

If I mourn for any­thing, then I mourn the feel­ing of con­nect­ed­ness which came in large part from fam­i­ly ties, deeply felt love and friend­ship and com­mon inter­ests and val­ues, but in part also from for­get­ting, if only for some min­utes each day, how dif­fer­ent­ly life and his­to­ry chal­lenges us and our com­mu­ni­ties. For­get­ting how eas­i­ly gov­ern­ments can close bor­ders between us. For­get­ting what our priv­i­leges pro­tect us from every day and how dif­fer­ent that is.

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