It was March 2020. COVID-19 was on the rise. The Governor had issued a stay-at-home order. My father-in-law called and said, Judson is about to lock-down; I need supplies. That’s when I thought: it’s going to get lonely in retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes.
As the pandemic spread and individuals were dying alone in hospitals, people started appearing in masks, gloves and face coverings; commerce, art, and social life moved to the internet; friends and relatives reported job losses and home-schooling; restaurants closed and grocery shelves became empty; underpaid essential workers seemed exhausted and were now viewed as “heroes.”
As a retired minister and a long-time member of the Judson community, I decided that I needed to do something. So, I spoke with Kendra Urdzik, Judson’s CEO, and volunteered to make pastoral phone calls to residents at Judson.
I began working my way through the directory making a few phone calls every day. Sometimes, it was as simple as calling to say hello and bring greetings on behalf of the Judson board. Other times, I got into deep conversations with individuals who wondered, “Where was God in all of this?” My response has always been: “Right here in the muck with us”. Sometimes, I would console a frightened and/or grieving individual. Oftentimes, residents would tell me about loved ones far away.
Over the phone, we would talk about earlier struggles: the influenza epidemic, the depression, WWII, and polio. We would hold out hope for a vaccine. More often than not, I heard concerns about the lack of leadership at the highest levels of government. But, without exception, I received compliments about the leadership and staff of Judson. To a person, I heard how grateful they were for the care and attention they were receiving from the associates who cleaned their room, administered their medication, prepared and delivered their meals, and so on. I also heard lots of worry about associates who would then go back into the community and care for their own families and friends.
By April, I was actually responding to requests from the “Judson Call Line”. In late May, former Judson associate Bill Fuller joined me in this effort. And we’re still making calls, though not as often as before. I love getting a request for a phone call, and I can’t wait to visit many residents in person.
I think this pandemic – coupled with the Black Lives Matter movement, and the economic turmoil, political upheaval, and civil discord we read about in the news – has shown a spotlight and magnifying glass on the face of our nation. The virus itself has demonstrated both the strength and challenge of retirement community living. It’s making us appreciate what we have taken for granted, including community and convenience. And all of it is making many of us ask: what’s happening in both our country and our world, and how can we repair it?
For me, I’m coming to realize that we’re not out of the woods yet, we won’t be for a long time, and we won’t ever go back to the way it was. As Aldous Huxley wrote in his 1931 novel, it is “a brave new world.”
*Tracey Lind, the former reverend of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and a longtime friend and board member of Judson, has been supporting residents throughout COVID-19 with uplifting calls of encouragement. To request a call with Tracey, please reach out to Laura Templar, Director of Volunteer Services by phone at (216) 791-2359 or email at LTemplar@judsonsmartliving.org. Please note that Tracey will be unavailable in August.