Walking Our Faith: Loneliness in the time of coronavirus | SummitDaily.com

Walking Our Faith: Loneliness in the time of coronavirus

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

In my mind’s eye, I see her sitting in her favorite chair by the big living room windows that overlook the yard in her condo complex. She watches as Dan waters the lawn and Dori hurries by with a load of laundry, and if she looks up, she can see Nick sitting outside on the upstairs patio, Alan standing nearby. They’re both laughing.

If she opens her window, she can hear their voices but not their actual conversation, and the glass window that separates them feels like a wall. These are her dear friends who usually come in and out of her house 10 times a day. Her door is always open for them. Dan brings in her mail, Dori brings in her laundry, Alan brings in her groceries  that she has selected from the sale pages of Aldi, Bobby brings her homemade ice cream, and she shares the extra fruit that she bought that week or some cake that someone else brought her.

But most of all, she treasures the moments they share together, moments of conversation, a chance to get the latest news or gossip. In normal times, Bobby takes her for her weekly hair appointment Saturday morning, and on Wednesday evening, they drive together to church to attend the choir practice.

She no longer sings in the choir because her lungs are not strong enough, but she is their official prayer warrior. She takes their prayer requests and promises to pray for them throughout the week, and then she sits back and enjoys the choir she was a part of for over 20 years.

Of course, the choir is not singing at church Sundays right now, nor is Mom sitting in her usual seat in the fifth row, next to the aisle, because this virus has made all these things impossible.

The other evening, Mom described this isolated life in a telephone call, and she broke down in tears. 

She is in Florida, and I am in Colorado, and if I could, I’d be on the next plane to be with her. But in these times, I cannot because to do so might jeopardize her health. And because she is 93 and lives with congestive heart failure, the coronavirus would be a very real threat to her life.

So, I did the only thing I could do, I hung up and then called her right back using FaceTime. Seeing her face and her seeing mine made us both feel better, and after we had spoken for a long time, she said she was ready to go to bed.

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If your church is not listed, email suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.

The next day and every day since, we have made it a point to speak to each other at least once a day by FaceTime, and it has made all the difference. Hearing someone’s voice is a comfort, but seeing their face in real time closes the miles and allows us to feel immediately present.

Loneliness and isolation are, in my estimation, a very dangerous side effect of the coronavirus and our self-imposed quarantine. Especially for those of us who live alone.

In addition to my daily FaceTime calls with Mom, I participate in Evening Prayer at 5 p.m. on Zoom with parishioners from Saint Mary’s and Our Lady of Peace. It’s only 30 minutes each evening, but seeing familiar faces and praying together and knowing I will have this regular contact each day gives me something to look forward to.

I’ve heard from pastors of other churches in Summit County, and all of them are doing something similar, whether by Zoom or live streaming church services on YouTube.

I believe these online church gatherings originally were started as a means to keep the structure of church services when meeting together in public was no longer possible. But from my perspective in the pews, I can tell you that these daily and weekly video church gatherings have become an integral part of both my spiritual life and mental health.

There has been speculation of how self-quarantine will change our lives after the virus has passed. I’ve always been an introvert and have worked from home for years, so in some ways, this is my natural state of being. But my lasting impression from this time is my understanding of how much even an introvert like myself needs companionship and consolation from others.

I also have discovered how much my spiritual practice is enriched when shared in community. The Wednesday evening Bible study and the Tuesday afternoon centering prayer, both hosted via Zoom, have deepened my walk of faith because I know others are walking with me, even from afar.

The opportunities to find companionship are not limited to spiritual matters. My Friday knitting group also has begun to meet on Zoom. And yes, it is exactly as you imagine: Eight ladies sitting in their own living rooms, knitting and chatting via video.

I’ve seen similar community caring arise in The New York Times cooking group on Facebook. At 3 a.m. this morning, a health care worker in New York City posted several paragraphs about her exhaustion, what she’s seeing in the emergency rooms, and how cooking was helping her to get through this difficult time. Immediately, there were over 200 comments thanking her for her service and offering her comfort and community.

If you are living alone or if you know of others living alone, please join a video church service, prayer group, Bible study or a group dedicated to a shared interest. Make a plan to join them daily or at least a few times a week.

We all need to be reminded that we are not alone, that there are others sharing this time with us. This will pass, and we will go back into the world with a fresh understanding of how deeply we need one another.

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.

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