I cannot imagine what it is like in nursing homes right now or what family of residents must be going through not able to be with their loved ones. I want to feel for them, worry for them as people, not numbers I hear reported; one of my photos helps me to imagine inside a nursing home. Nursing homes are a deadly battleground against the Covid-19 virus, a battle of life and death. That’s not too dramatic. Residents and staff are facing death and maybe worse, the fear of imminent death. Most of those who’ve died didn’t even have a chance to get to a hospital. I’m trying to at least be thoughtful and prayerful for those experiencing this nightmare, the worst of our pandemic. And the photo below helps me, so I pass it along.
It’s one of my favourite photos. The residents have come down from their rooms for an afternoon tea party; in fact, I think it was a special strawberry shortcake celebration of spring. What appeals to me about the photo is that while we see the physical representation of each person yet we also seem to see each person’s private, interior thought, caught in suspension by the photo. And each person with a different thought, in fact a great range of human thought in my reading: concern, suspicion, indifference, worry, joy, longing, boredom, affection. Well…see what you think. Thoughts are judgments, interior experiences as we receive information from our senses and impose on the information a pattern and interpretation based on a lifetime of experience. We express our judgements in our non-verbal and verbal communication. We live out this social being from the beginning of birth to last breath and death. Having tea and cake this afternoon, the residents are as human in that moment as they were as a crying infant, a bouncy child, a serious young adult, an uncertain middle-aged parent. The image, as it has captured human thought and engagement, reminds me that each elderly resident has a rich humanity that does not diminish with age.
And in the photo we see how they need to gather, be with each other, if just for a tea. One tragedy of the devastating Covid-19 outbreak in the retirement homes is that most all who die will die alone, without family by their side.
Half of those dying from Covid-19 are residents of a retirement home just like those residents pictured above. In the photo we see the residents, alive and full of life, an interior life of complex emotions, as the image suggests; in the photo they are still living out life, in the moment, along with a bit of cake and a cup of tea. Alive. Not statistics. Wanting to live as any of us. I want to remember them as such when we are hearing horrendous accounts of abandonment by staff, lying for days unattended in their own feces and urine, without food, dying alone. I want to be able to imagine them as people, not as statistics, feel that pain in my imagination; the photo helps me to do that, to think of them, each one, as an individual human being. So I pass on the photo and reflection along with the hope that you and your loved ones will be well, and that you will manage whatever your trial, all of us manage with each other in mind.