|Influenza epidemic in United States. St. Louis, Missouri, Red Cross Motor Corps on duty, October 1918. (National Archives)|
By Larry Peterson
I have learned that loneliness has no boundaries. It reaches out for everyone and captures many of the unsuspecting, including the seemingly happy, satisfied, and successful. Yes, loneliness is capable of dragging the lonely into a world of hidden misery and often depression. It can attack anyone at any time, and it has become a social condition of almost epidemic proportions.
I have been widowed twice and know full well how loneliness can occupy a unique place in the widowed equation. Loneliness also reaches out and captures those who may have lost a child, a parent, a sibling, or even a dear friend. I carry the loneliness package from all of those
Suddenly, loneliness has been gifted with a new victim to feast on: it can now extend its ravenous appetite into the pandemic known as COVID-19, aka the coronavirus. Loneliness is about to ravage the senior citizen in ways never imagined. One way will be to take away their chairs and sofas.
I have been bringing Holy Communion to the homebound on Sundays for over twenty years. It may be the most uplifting thing I do and I know I have been spiritually rewarded many times over. This past Sunday, I confronted a new wrinkle among my visits. I have one lady, Virginia (she is 98), who resides in an independent living apartment. It is a reasonably long walk from the parking lot to the building entrance. Once there, you use a keypad to gain access. I scroll to Virginia's name and get her on the speaker. She buzzes me in.
As the sliding doors open, I stop short. No one is there. Every Sunday, there are four or five, maybe six, people in the lobby sitting around chatting and just visiting with each other. They know my name, and I always get a friendly welcome from them. We exchange a few pleasantries (I usually joke about something), and then I go on my way.
But this Sunday no one is there. I just stood there because it took me a few seconds to realize that no one was there because the furniture was gone. The lobby was empty. There was no sofa, or chairs, or coffee table. They had been removed, and there was no place to sit and talk. This was done courtesy of the management “protecting” the residents against COVID-19 or coronavirus. We must keep the elderly SAFE. No problem; just keep them in their rooms—ALONE.
The situation impacted me deeply. I have been visiting the sick and homebound for a long time, and they do not ask for much. However, in their low profile quiet world, they look forward to sitting together (if possible) and just talking about whatever it is they talk about. My visit is a big deal for them. I see each of my folks for about ten minutes each, sometimes a bit longer.
I may be the only visitor they see all week. Yet my visit buoys them up for my next visit which is a week away. The folks that gather in the lobby every week are non-catholic and do not receive. But I do get to say a short prayer with them, and they like my doing it. So do I.
But now, on this Sunday morning in March of the year 2020, it seems things have changed in a way no one could have ever imagined. The powers that be want us to be alone. They want us to avoid each other, not touch each other, and become individual entities. But we are social beings and like it or not; we need each other. We need to touch and hold and shake hands and hug, especially among family and friends.
Nursing homes all over the country have been placed on “lockdown.” Patients in these places will be relegated to their beds. Family and friends will not be allowed to visit them. Independent living apartments will have empty lobbies and courtyards. There will be no place for the tenants to sit and congregate.
Will our country and maybe the world soon have billions of separate individuals with no one to talk to or visit with. It is such a strange paradox; saving the lonely by making them lonlier than they already are.
We had all better pray like we never prayed before that this coronavirus is vanquished quickly. We cannot live this way for very long.
copyright ©LarryPeterson 2020