You may be stuck at home right now but you can still make a big difference for those who are ill.
My grandmother broke her hip last week. She fell down while taking a cup of tea into the living room to watch Saturday night Mass on the television. On hearing the news, my first impulse was to check my calendar to see how soon I could visit her in the hospital, only to be crushed by the realization that no visitors are currently allowed at the hospital right now. She’s going to a rehab facility soon and no visitors are allowed there either. My reaction to this has followed a predictable arc – frustration, anger, helplessness, and finally, acceptance.
As a priest, a significant part of my job is to be at the side of the sick. I offer prayers and sacraments, bring greetings from the parish, or simply sit and visit. I’ve laughed over cups of coffee with the homebound recovering from minor illnesses and held the hands of people as they breathed their last. The common denominator to it all was that I was there. I was physically present with them, assuring them of my concern. When it comes to a sick visit, I know what to do, how to pray with them, how to be present as a comfort in a time of trial.
Right now I cannot be there, though, so I must re-evaluate. I’m sure many of you share my frustrations. Elderly parents are not being cared for as we would like, those in the hospital don’t have their usual sources of support, and there may be countless ill people all alone, suffering quietly in their homes.
How can we continue to care for them?
In my experience, asking, “What can I do for you?” rarely elicits a response. That question puts a further burden on the sick person. They may feel like they’re imposing on us to ask something, so they wave the question off. It’s far better is to make a specific offer, so I’ve thought of a few we can make.
Food is a powerful comfort for the sick. But how to get the meal to the doorstep of the afflicted when you aren’t supposed to leave your house to deliver it?
Simple. Leverage the genius of modern technology. As a species, we have moved heaven and earth to make food delivery a technological priority. Restaurants may be closed but many have already put plans in place to make and deliver delicious meals to customers with a minimum of fuss. So if you cannot personally drop off your chicken noodle soup, there are dozens of restaurants near your loved one that will happily drop it off for you, either via a simple call-in order or a food-ordering app. (One of those restaurants is even bound to have chicken soup on the menu!)
Dropping off some groceries is another way to show your love and care if the person is local.
Because my grandmother cannot receive visitors, my children have spent a lot of time making her homemade get-well cards. Adults, too, can join the fun and write a letter. It’s a lost art form but, because letters are so rare, the effort will be all the more appreciated.
As important as a hand-written note is the message that your smiling face can send. Make an intentional effort to reach out via FaceTime or another video-messaging app.
Half the battle with illness is the emotional and mental toll it takes. When I’m sick I complain a lot. I get bored, frustrated, annoyed. I feel isolated and impatient to get back to normal. Something as simple as an interaction with a friend — especially one who allows me to whine about being sick – totally resets my mood.
Consider how lonely it can be for people who live alone or are stuck at the hospital with limited opportunities for visitors. They’re not only fighting a physical battle, but they’re also fighting off low morale. Your small effort can brighten their day.
I saw an idea the other day that I thought was fantastic: make a spiritual adoption. No one should have to suffer alone. Even if you don’t know who you’re praying for, even if you’re only there in spirit, your prayers can make a world of difference for the sick. You can pray a Rosary, a Divine Mercy chaplet, or livestream a Mass and hold that person in your heart as your Mass intention. Prayer really matters. It’s probably the best gift we could give to anyone.
It’s important that those who are ill know they haven’t been forgotten. In the face of difficulty in sending them your love, don’t give in to helplessness. Be creative and reach out. Even if illness separates us from each other physically, it can never sever the love that binds us together.
Prayer for strength during sickness