Jasmine was first admitted to the hospital at the height of the COVID pandemic and placed in isolation, which meant no visitors allowed. I had been recovering at home from my bout with COVID. Four days later, I drove an hour to the hospital to be re-examined (I had COVID pneumonia). After my exam, I requested permission to visit Jasmine, and the doctor responded, “Sometimes you just gotta be human.” He broke protocol and granted my request. The BiPap machine covering her nose and mouth prevented us from conversing, and for the next five hours, I got a taste of what she was going through. The isolation was agonizing.
Isolation kills. I cannot prove that it caused Jasmine’s decline, but I have no doubt it contributed to it. Those five hours felt like the longest five hours of my life, and sadly, it was the last time we would spend together. After six days, with no direct human contact and her condition declining, she was placed in a medically-induced coma and never recovered.
Grief can become all-consuming. It can go from dismay to disorientation to depression to despair . . . but only if we allow it. We can reverse the cycle by intentionally connecting with people in our life. One of the men in our widowers’ Facebook group wrote, “Having grown very tired of being lonely and isolated, this morning I am hosting my entire neighborhood for coffee and bagels in my driveway.” He reported that over forty of his neighbors showed up, and the event lasted the entire morning. It lifted his spirits as many friendships were made or renewed.
When I was home alone, I received concerned text messages and emails. After she passed, some said, “I thought about calling, but I didn’t know what to say.” Texts and emails are means of communication, but they are not viable substitutes for actual human contact—a phone call or sharing over a cup of coffee. Hearing a human voice or reading facial expressions showing care, concern, and compassion encourages the soul and overcomes the pain of isolation.
To those who care but are afraid to say the wrong thing, push through your fear and make the phone call. It’s okay if they don’t answer. Leave a message letting them know you are thinking of them with a request to call you back. When they respond, share your concern, invite them to lunch or coffee, and set the date and time. You may not feel you have the right words, but there are more important things. There is a ministry of words and a ministry of presence—of just being there. Sometimes, a shoulder to cry on or a much-needed hug offers more than words.
A dear friend phoned me every week throughout my journey. Decades earlier, he had been there, losing his wife in a car accident, leaving him with young children to care for. He and his son mowed my lawn when I was recovering. He knew the feeling of isolation and acted upon it. It meant a lot.
Isolation kills; be intentional about staying connected. Go ahead; make the call. Move forward.
(Adapted from a chapter in the book, What Now, God? by Morris Isara, available on Amazon)
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