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Letter to Lucie from Marion Muller-Colard

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Faced with the coronavirus and the containment it causes, Gallimard publishes one or two " Crisis leaflets "signed by the great feathers of the House such as Erik Orsenna, Sylvain Tesson, Cynthia Fleury, Régis Debray or Danièle Sallenave, in order to reflect on the questions raised by the epidemic and to keep the link with the reader. 43 titles have been published to date. UP' has chosen to offer you each day an extract from a selected text and author.

Dear Lucy, you don't know me, and I know very little about you. I am part of the ethical support cell created by the Espace de Réflexion Éthique in my region, to accompany hospital staff at the heart of the predicted waves of the epidemic. It is in this capacity that a referral form arrived on my desk, which you have carefully filled in, filling in point by point all that was asked of you, surname, first name, function, department, establishment... From there, I know that you are a nurse.

It has not escaped your notice that these days there is a lot of praise for "caregivers". Forgive us for tossing you from invisibility to overexposure. Only we fear for our lives and your dedication is our only chance. In these strange times, when what is not survival is relegated to the background, I am afraid that your message will go unnoticed, Lucie. No doubt you are helping to save lives, too. But what I know about you, and what touches me the most, is that you are also trying to save the dead.

I am not going to lie to you: when I came across your handwritten lines summarizing the reason for your referral, I did not immediately perceive its urgency and necessity. You wrote this:

Before being transferred to the morgue, the stretcher bearer placed the suitcase on the body of the deceased patient. ... Death does not, in our opinion, preclude respect for the body. As caregivers, we cannot accept such a lack of humanity!

Before yours, another referral deplored the return home of a patient who could not be admitted to intensive care because of the congestion in the department and whose family was going back home to watch him die there. A doctor wrote of his distress at not having been able to save, for lack of space once again, two patients whom he would normally have had the means to drive to recovery. A psychologist was alarmed at the consequences for a patient with severe disabilities of being deprived of visits from his wife; she was worried about the slipping syndrome that this emotional lack, incomprehensible to this man, was beginning to produce in him. So, Lucie, this suitcase story... I turned the page and plunged back into questions that seemed far more vital to me.

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My first mistake was to confuse vital with essential. The times that are going by, precisely because they are going by, contribute greatly to this confusion. I beg your pardon, Lucia, but also: I appeal to your indulgence. We must have reserves of indulgence, for we have not finished drawing on them, for others and for ourselves, when we have to wake up from this long nightmare in which the sense of urgency has often hypnotized us. We will have made mistakes, and I hope that in this us in which each one of us will have the humility to acknowledge his or her part, by acknowledging this fundamental need for the indulgence of others - yes, there will still be time, the "day after", to feel fragile, fragile together before the judgment as we were before the virus.

So, Lucia, I initially overlooked your cry from the heart punctuated by an exclamation mark - where most of the other referrals opened on an abyss of suspension points.

Only this: these few handwritten lines came back dancing under my skull, stubbornly infiltrating between two disjointed thoughts, and something was preventing me from turning the page for good.

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Marion Muller-Colard, "Crisis leaflets n°42 - Gallimard, April 10, 10 am

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