It was 4:50 a.m. when the phone rang, waking me from a dream immediately lost. There was a death and the family had requested the chaplain come in to offer a blessing prayer with their loved one.
That is not an unusual request but these are unusual times, and the call was from our red zone—that is, our COVID-19 positive unit. Deep breath. A prayer of thanksgiving for the official “fit-testing” of my new N-95 mask yesterday.
Then a mental review of the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) I would need: gown, mask, goggles, gloves. Another prayer to calm my anxiety about a task I have done many times before during six years of ministry here, a task now made entirely new and, to be truthful, more than a bit scary.
Prayer finished, divested of PPE other than the ever-present mask, I stopped to check on the nursing staff and to offer them words of affirmation, because they wake up every morning choosing to set aside apprehensions and don their PPE and work long shifts caring lovingly for residents who have this devastating illness.
As they enter our building, they pass by signs naming them as “heroes.” They are.
Oh, but it is so much more than that one word can possibly encompass! I call them the faithful—faithful to the mission of this skilled nursing home’s stated purpose: “…to demonstrate God’s command to love the neighbor through acts of service.”
They are faithful to the vows of their vocation as nurses. But most of all they are faithful to each resident, one by one, whose lives are precious to them, and in danger of slipping away. Courage mixed with compassion.
It is an awesome calling. It is a fearsome responsibility. I am humbled by their faithfulness, brought to tears by their courage, and so very proud to be in their presence.
Thank you to all of them for all you are, and all you do for the people we serve.
—The Rev. Dr. Colleen Kristula Chaplain, The Lutheran Home at Topton