COVID-19 Reflections, part 3

Onto part 3 of the COVID-19 Reflections, submitted by folks from all over ECCT. Thank you to all who have submitted, here are just a few more. Please, keep submitting! 

We asked folks from all over ECCT to submit reflections on their experiences during this time of quarantine, physical distancing, and uncertainty. We asked where you see God in this, what you are learning, and how you are caring for yourself in this time.

If you would like to submit your reflection (anyone writing music or painting during this time?), please email storytelling@episcopalct.org. We ask you to please include your name, parish/worshiping community, a photo to go with your reflection, and to keep your reflections to under 600 words.


Ash Pierce
Church of the Holy Trinity, Middletown

Wake up. Feed the cats. Rush to prepare, eat, drink my tea, make a lunch, kiss the wife, out the door. Hurry down the highway, now almost empty of cars. Punch the clock. Don my gloves, don my mask, don’t forget to spray with alcohol. Help the customers, answer the questions, keep everything green and alive and growing, always on guard, don’t touch my face. Wash my hands, fill the hours, water the greenhouses, don’t touch the doorknobs, stay away from strangers. Our busiest time of year, with a set of new rules and ways of living and moving. Punch the clock, head home to do it all again tomorrow. Slowly, physically tired, emotionally drained.

The whole world is shut down, but I feel this strange sense of inertia, at the same time that I’m running 90 mph. Nothing and yet everything has changed. Days filled with dirt and flowers and life, while death and distance are the words of the day. While everyone is trapped inside, dreaming of new ways to reinvent themselves and their work and their families, my day to day is almost unchanged, somehow leaving me with even less time than ever before. Certainly no time for home repair projects or new hobbies.

I see changes as voids, spaces in my life where there had been life and movement, which now stand vacant and empty. Wednesday nights of music (spent with my Praise Band family) are now silent, and I am too tired to play on my own. Sundays mornings of fellowship (with my church community) are now spent alone, and I am too far away to log in.

But where I see a void, God sees a space for something new in my life. My nights of music have become long stretches of road, with the radio on and a song on my lips. The right song always plays just when I need it, and reminds me of the promises that have been made for my life. Just breathe, do not worry, this is not the end. “I will cast my cares on You,” the radio plays, and I sing along.

The loss of fellowship has been hard as well, but even there God saw an opportunity. Our overburdened and overscheduled teens suddenly find themselves with empty calendars, and so our teen group has been meeting twice as often as usual, to help them fill the hours. Every Friday, rain or shine, we digitally gather for laughter and conversation, bringing together familiar faces and a sense of normal. It saddens my soul to hear how they are struggling, lost and mourning without even knowing the words for what they are feeling. But it lifts my heart to see them back together, and to give them a few hours of escape each week, even just to watch a movie, play a game or listen to music and daydream.

And always, always, we close in prayer: “Time passes so slowly. God, when will this all be over? Hurry, hurry, hurry, then wait, wait, wait. God, help us remember that time is not something that can be caught and held in a net, and that your time is not our time. Holy Spirit, settle us down. Open our hearts, and fill them with your love. Wait with us.”


Angela Shelley
Saint Hilda’s House — Christ Church, New Haven

Through a Glass Dimly

On Fridays, I work the evening shift as a hospital chaplain. Due to the pandemic, I no longer go into patient rooms and sit eye-to-eye at the edge of their beds, talking in a quiet voice. I can’t put my hand on their shoulder as I pray with them. Instead, I do chaplaincy through a glass dimly. I wear a surgical mask and on COVID units I sit outside patient rooms to talk with them. The PPE shortage means I often have to ask the nurse to go into the room and arrange the equipment that allows me to talk to the patient through a cellphone app.

The monitors on which the patients see me are several feet away, so instead of speaking in a deliberately quiet, intimate voice, now I nearly shout so they can hear me. On my iPhone, I can only see a thumbnail, a dim outline of the patient. I can’t see if tears are slipping out of their eyes. While they talk, I make exaggerated nodding motions with my whole body so they can see I’m listening, that I understand. I listen for the slightest change of tone in their voice, trying to hear if we’ve gotten to the heart of what’s on their hearts. We see through a glass dimly.

The nurse pages me after a patient dies. Instead of going into the room and placing my hand on the patient’s head to pray, I must stand outside the room. I open my pocket prayer book, place my hand on the glass door, and say the prayers of commendation.

Sometimes the nurses or residents circle around as I pray. I thank them for their care of the patient and express my sympathy to them for the death of this person for whom they have performed the deeds of love.

Behind a face shield, they have provided face-to-face care for those who would otherwise die alone. We see through a glass dimly, but it is love, a particular kind of love for a stranger, that we see through that glass.

– –

Over 1100 miles away my mother is in a nursing home to recover from a hip fracture. In that COVID hotspot, only staff are allowed inside. Twice a day, Daddy goes to her window to watch her eat and to talk for a few minutes by telephone. He misses her so much that he often cries as he walks away. My sister, who has asthma, breaks social distancing to hug him.

We love through a glass dimly. Inside, underpaid strangers tend to her. I can only hope that it is with the same love and care I see at my hospital. Both Mother and Daddy have underlying health conditions that put them at high risk should they get infected. Because I go into the hospital, I cannot even visit them.

For the last 18 months, Mother has been in and out of the hospital and rehab. These months of ill health have masked her personality and we see and hear only a dim reflection of the woman who had a series of parties for her 75thbirthday just three years ago. It’s like looking at her with cataracts on our eyes and we’re afraid of what we do see dimly.

– –

By the time I remembered to wash the outside of the windows, it was too late. The mama robin had already built her nest and cleaning the window would have disturbed her. So my view of her nest is through a glass dimly – and smudged. There’s a decades-old security sticker permanently affixed to the window that further obscures my view.

She tolerates me sitting inside my study during a daily series of Zoom meetings that begins with Morning Prayer. She’s gotten used to the floor lamp with the bright pink Mid-century modern shades that sits between us. She looks at me when I click it on, but she doesn’t fly away.

Most years the ledge outside my window wouldn’t be an ideal spot for a nest. Most years there’s daily foot traffic and on Sundays, a parade of parishioners going from the church to coffee hour would walk perilously close to the nest.

This year the cloister door opens only a few times a week. Then mama robin flies from the nest, perching in safety until she can return. One day when she flew away, I held my phone over her nest and snapped a couple of pictures. Inside were four beautiful blue eggs, a color so lovely and full of the promise of new life. A blue with just a touch of turquoise, of green, so that the eggs seem to hold all of spring – blue sky and new leaf. A bolder blue, more vivid than the sky on the most perfect spring day.

Part of me wants to hold on, to preserve these beautiful, life-giving, promise-full eggs. But that life-giving promise can only be fulfilled by being broken. If these eggs stay as they are, the life within will die and rot, the promise won’t be fulfilled. 

The mama robin sits faithfully on her nest, waiting for signs and signals. Today for the first time I saw her perched on the rim of the nest, looking inside. It must be time for those tiny beaks to tap from inside the egg, to break open the promise and emerge.

Unlike their eggs, newly hatched robins aren’t pretty. They’ll look like tiny, bald, squawking dinosaurs. Then, just when they start to look beautiful, they’ll fly away to fulfill the promise of those vivid blue eggs.

Like the robin, I sit and wait, wait for the promise of this time to break open in new life, in new ways of being. I live alone – except for the robin – so I FaceTime my spiritual director about the difficulty of not seeing and touching the ones I love. He talks to me about loving strangers and the sacrifices that that calls me to make.

It’s one-way, not reciprocal love, this love of strangers in the time of pandemic. We don’t know if our love even makes a difference. Perhaps one day we will know in full, perhaps we will see clearly the difference love made.

More importantly, we will know in full the depth and breadth of God’s love for us, a love that we now see only in reflection, through a glass dimly.


Daphne H. Wilcox 
Seabury Retirement Community  
      

Although I am confined to my apartment at Seabury, I have seen and felt God in so many ways. Obviously, Covid has limited my pastoral ministries, of pet therapy, hospice and singing at bedside to the dying. However, I am finding other ways to reach out and to be in touch with those who are alone or recently widowed, by making phone calls, sending emails, writing notes and even having my dogs send a card with their picture on it. 

My enclosed porch overlooks the employee entrance – through which everyone must enter – in order to be screened. I have felt God in the comings and goings of patients and the permanent departure of shrouded bodies. In the midst of all the activity, I stop to savor the gift of bells that play many familiar hymns four times a day.

Helping our chaplain record Morning Prayer provides me intentional worship time and, as I reflect, another way that I am able to minister to others, even at a distance. 

I sent virtual hugs and held virtual hands with my niece, as she mourned not being present at her father’s death to due to Covid. Through The Caring Bridge, I followed the journey of another family and their struggle making the decision to let their loved one go.

Yes, the pandemic has limited my ”hands on” pastoral care, but I’ve found other ways to carry out my ministry.


Martha C. Merrill
Calvary Church, Stonington, CT

Finding the Unexpected Among COVID-19

Walks along the beach and hikes in the woods have always brought me a sense of peace and comfort and closeness to God. With the COVID-19 outbreak and CT’s “Stay Safe, Stay Home” initiative, these occasional walks have turned into a necessary and regular part of my daily routine. It’s strange how a virus could have such a positive impact on my life. Walks had never become a daily ritual. Until now. The exercise, release and enjoyment of frequent indoor tennis needed some sort of replacement, I guess. 

My daily walks along a nearby private beach are solitary. I wave to and greet, from an appropriate distance, the few individuals I run into. On occasion my walks coincide with those of my sister-in-law, Joy. She and I share an interest in finding “treasures” along the shore. These gems come in the form of heart-shaped rocks (for their obvious beauty and pleasure), smooth cloudy white ones (to boarder Joy’s cottage gardens), round ones with an encircling stripe (for good luck) and the harder to find oblong ones that resemble a Harbor seal when a face is painted or marked on the narrow end (like the ones my mother and her friend Betty used to make from rocks found along the shores of Christmas Cove, ME). The real prize to be discovered, however, is the rare hard-to-spot piece of appropriately polished beach glass. I suppose we should be pleased that fewer bottles are landing in the ocean to be tossed into tiny bits along our shores, but we do continue to thrill in finding a rare blue or turquoise piece, or even a simple green or white tidbit along the tideline. Sea glass hunting always conjures up my Aunt Amy’s poem, Beach Glass:

I keep a lookout for beach glass—
amber of Budweiser, chrysoprase
of Almadén and Gallo, lapis
by way of (no getting around it,
I’m afraid) Phillips’
Milk of Magnesia, with now and then a rare
translucent turquoise or blurred amethyst
of no known origin….

Clampitt, Amy. “Beach Glass”. The Kingfisher. New York: Knopf, 1983. Print. 

I have a rather large jar of collected sea glass at home and came up with an idea. As April Fool’s Day approached I thought how inappropriate gag tricks seemed at this time of seriousness and social distancing, and yet I thought that spreading larger pieces of beach glass along the shore for Joy to find could be a nice distraction, and would certainly be a pleasant surprise. So, on April 1st I joined Joy at the beach. She arrived before I did which allowed her to walk to the inlet where we always turn around, and for me to drop pieces along the tideline for her to discover on her walk back. As she noticed the unexpectedly increased volume of beach glass, I finally had to announce, “April Fools!” She was indeed surprised, and we had a wonderful laugh. 

Beachcombing and beach walking during COVID-19 reminds us of the simple pleasures in life and how one must be on the lookout for the unexpected. 

… The process
goes on forever: they came from sand,
they go back to gravel,
along with the treasuries
of Murano, the buttressed
astonishments of Chartres,
which even now are readying
for being turned over and over as gravely
and gradually as an intellect
engaged in the hazardous
redefinition of structures
no one has yet looked at.

Clampitt, Amy. “Beach Glass”. The Kingfisher. New York: Knopf, 1983. Print. 


Thank you all for your submissions, please keep them coming. You can email them to storytelling@episcopalct.org.

Stay Safe 💗

One Comment Add yours

  1. John Tuthill says:

    Hi! Interesting reflections. I didn’t see where Jesus, gospel, sin, repentance, etc. were mentioned in these this time.
    But, these were very interesting for both what they include and for what is not mentioned too. Thanks for posting these.

    Like

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