1 Year in a Pandemic
Music played loud and my daughter and I laughed and danced as we enjoyed the daddy-daughter dance at her school. This was my last fun memory before the pandemic hit one year ago. It was a beautiful moment of joy, peace, safety, and freedom. I wasn’t worried about anything that night.
What is your last pandemic-free memory?
In the year since, we’ve experienced so many losses. Loss of health. Loss of friendships. Loss of loved ones. Loss of freedom. Loss of hobbies. Loss of community. Loss of motivation. Loss of purpose. Loss of meaning. The list can go on and on.
For many of you, these losses led to long days in your apartments. It meant sleeping more than you’d like. It meant watching a year of bad news on TV. It meant eating alone. It meant holidays filled with isolation rather than connection with family and friends. It meant watching church on TV, rather than gathering with your spiritual community. And for many, it led us back to the basics.
After one of the most devastating events in the history of Israel, the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., five poems were penned and compiled in the book of Lamentations. These poems express the emotional pain and grief that the individuals of Israel were experiencing. In the midst of such grief, the third poem gets back to the Israelites’ basic beliefs about God.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
For the Israelites, the basics were God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness. They believed that even though they had gone through so much loss, they still had God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness.
As I reflect on the last year, I still see God’s love, mercy and faithfulness working itself out amid all our losses. I witnessed it in our residents as they came together in creative ways to support one another through all of it. Residents may have missed eating meals together in the dining room, but they decided to spend time collecting all the meal delivery bags and donate them to Feeding America. Some residents created check-in systems with their neighbors, by putting a piece of paper with their names and the date on it on the ledge outside their apartment. They each made sure they went outside to check in, just to let their neighbors know they were still there. I heard of residents passing books back and forth sometimes to three or four different people, so that they could keep each other’s minds stimulated throughout days that could sometimes get boring.
I also saw residents make the most out of restrictive situations. When we could no longer do communal activities, independent living residents bonded together as floors and participated in hallway games. In lieu of funeral services, a group of residents created a memorial garden in honor of one of their friends who had passed away. I also remember when Vonnie Bauer, long time resident of Assisted Living who died in December 2020, called the hallway hymn sings I led every Sunday afternoon the “Church of the Open Doorways.”
Our residents may not have had life go as they wanted this last year, but many of them found ways to continue to take care of themselves, engage in their faiths, and encourage one another throughout it.
In conclusion, I want to speak of the staff at Beacon Hill. From the CNAs and life enrichment team to the management and leadership, there has been countless days when coming to work this year has been hard. In the beginning, there were a lot of unknowns. We didn’t know if we were going to get the virus and how it would affect us, our families, and our residents. There was a lot of fear. Yet so many of our staff persevered. They found ways to keep showing up for our residents. There have been moments of sadness when we lost residents, moments of celebration when some recovered from COVID, and many other moments with all sorts of emotions. These staff have been through more than they bargained for, but they continue to do their best. As one resident said to me just a few days ago, “There is not a single staff member who is not kind here.” I think that speaks volumes of what kind of team we have.
God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness was made known each day over the last year as we persevered as a community. May that mindset continue to motivate us as we meet each day over the coming weeks and months.
 Lamentations 3:22-24