‘A particular kind of Hell’: Shielded author phones mum to say ‘Dad has died’

Norwich author Laura James, who has been shielding during the pandemic, has spoken up about her fath

Norwich author Laura James, who has been shielding during the pandemic, has spoken up about her father's death and how she had to break the news on the phone to her mum. Picture: Tim James - Credit: Archant

A Norwich writer has told of the “unimaginable” pain of having to break the news of her father’s death to her mother in a phone call.

Laura James, who has been shielding for nine weeks for health reasons, was informed on Monday (June 1) that her dad David Levene had died alone in hospital in London at around 5am.

The Golden Triangle resident then faced the torment of not being able to travel to her parents’ home in London to break the news to her mum Josie about the loss of her husband of 50-plus years.

Instead, she asked her aunt Valerie Levy, who lives nearby, to be in the garden with her mum when she received the phone call from Mrs James.

More: ‘Call me vulnerable at your peril’ - Norfolk ‘shielders’ react to announcement of lockdown easingNow the mum-of-three, who has been shielding due to a connective disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), has broken her intention to remain at home despite lockdown being eased, and travelled to be with her mother.

Mrs James said: “It is a particular kind of hell. My mum is shielding as well and I had to tell her over the phone. I took the decision to go to her to sit in her garden.

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“I am breaking shielding for this, I cannot leave her all alone when her husband, who she been with for over 50 years has just died. He died alone, having spent more than a week in hospital and no one could go and see him. It’s unimaginable.

“I cannot hug her or make her a cup of tea and I have to talk my children through this.”

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In a tweet, Mrs James said she did not know how to respond when her mum asked “what will I do?”, except ask people to stay home.

She wrote a piece for The Sunday Times, telling how she has been shielding in her Norwich home since April 7, away from her husband Tim and son Jack, 24.

The Odd Girl Out author said the experience had gone from being optimistic to testing her resilience as she stayed in her bedroom alone for weeks, only leaving to prepare food in kitchen. When food was ready she would text her family before retiring elsewhere.

More: ‘Look out for your neighbours’ - Man, 75, found at home with no food and broken freezerBefore her father’s death she had planned to continue shielding due to feeling the easing of the original rules were happening “scarily fast”.

Across England new measures are allowing up to groups of up to six to meet, with those shielding also allowed to be outside for the first time with those in their household.

Mrs James said: “I want people to think about the consequences: everything we do has a consequence that it did not before.

“Is that burger, is that beer, is that trip to someone else’s house worth it? Is it worth being the person sitting on the phone telling someone their husband of 50-plus years has died?

“Is it worth it to put someone in this position?”

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