Opinion: This year the best gift we can give our mothers is to stay well away
Tomorrow will be a Mother's Day like no other for those of us fortunate enough to have our mums.
What would normally be a day for gifts and visits, plenty of hugs and family members gathered together, will be as different as it would be possible to imagine.
Normal life has changed utterly over the past few weeks for every person. No one is unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic.
For those of us with elderly parents, this is a time of immense worry.
We are trying to convey the urgent need for them to stay indoors while not scaring them half to death.
My parents are perhaps fairly typical of their age group. They got through the Troubles, they even came through the tribulations of the Second World War.
My dad has a clear memory of the Belfast Blitz, his father rushing to an air raid shelter at St Malachy's College, Belfast, while carrying the disabled son of a neighbour.
Like many parents, they have also endured unimaginable personal loss, so adversity is not a new experience to them.
They are also at a stage when they want to enjoy every minute of their lives - and they do. They love socialising, going on holiday, visiting friends, having a fry at the local cafe on a Saturday morning and above all, spending time with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Which makes it especially difficult to persuade them that the measures which are so alien to all of us - not touching, keeping our distance, staying in the house - are not a matter of choice.
My mum, aged 79, has a part-time job and loves the whole social aspect of going to work. She has never been one to sit in the house, so the thought of being confined to barracks is particularly challenging.
Luckily, she does not live alone. My dad, 83 next month, refuses to describe himself as elderly, insisting he is merely in late middle age. Despite imploring him to stay inside this week, he went out for a coffee with a retired friend.
However, they appreciate that what we are facing is deadly serious.
There is nothing I would love more than to hug my mum tomorrow, to have her and dad sitting at our kitchen table for Sunday dinner, grandkids running around the house.
The normal life that we all took for granted is now that most precious, and elusive, commodity.
Tomorrow I will not visit my mum, hard though that will be. I do not want to unwittingly be the cause of her or dad getting sick and she completely understands.
We will chat on the phone, as we do every day. But this year, the best gift we can give our mothers is to stay well away.
- Fiona McGarry is Assistant Editor of The Irish News.