Even in 2020, there were things to be thankful for …

The dates may have varied in each senior living community, but the outcome was the same. For us, it was March 12 of last year. The day everything changed.

That was the day the Diakon senior living community of which I am chaplain closed its doors to visitors and most family members to protect our residents from the virus that can cause COVID-19 disease. In an instant, most of my tasks as chaplain fell away.

In the blink of an eye, the role of the chaplain became “connecting.” Families outside were terribly worried about their loved ones, especially hearing “horror stories” in the media about COVID-19 in nursing homes. Our residents were lonely, some confused by the absence of regular family visits, thinking they had been abandoned.

BC—that is, Before Covid—in any given week I would lead four worship services and three Bible studies and visit new residents for spiritual assessment, in addition to attending multiple interdisciplinary meetings. Now, only the meeting part of my work remained.

And so the first thing I am thankful for in 2020 are the people who created Zoom, Facetime, Skype and other such technologies and the devices on which we use them. These amazing resources allowed me to connect residents and their families to be face-to-face if not physically present, to connect with words, smiles, blown kisses and tears (and, truth be told, some of those tears of joy were my own).

The calls helped to reassure families that their loved one was well-cared for—and allowed them to reassure residents they were not forgotten. Some weeks had more than 60 such calls.

Better than any sermon I have ever preached, the love of God was displayed in the words: “I have your family on the picture phone today,” and spirits were lifted.

And so the second 2020 thing for which I am grateful is the opportunity to forge new bonds with families and residents, assuring them of God’s and our love for them, even those I might never have encountered in those BC worship services and Bible studies.

—The Rev. Dr. Colleen Kristula Chaplain, The Lutheran Home at Topton Because we review comments, they do not appear immediately. Please do not submit each comment more than once. Please review our comment policy.

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