HAPPY MOTHERING DAY 2020:
HONORING OUR CAREGIVERS IN THESE COVID19 TIMES
(Chaplain E. Lahti Rosensaft, BCCC, BCPC)
MATTHEW 10:8 “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (Jesus said to the Disciples.)
MARK 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The 2nd is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Jesus when asked which Commandments are most important.)
PHILIPPIANS 2:13 “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” (The Apostle Paul to the Christians in Philippi.)
YouTube video: “Man with COVID 19 was Dying- Then God Sent a Cleaner.”
That touching video shows that even in our darkest hour, when we are feeling very sick and alone, that God is near. What a blessing it is to know the Lord. Have you ever felt alone like this? The dying man cried out to the Lord to save him when no one else was allowed in – not family - not Clergy – God sent a cleaner! The patient was surprised that the cleaner “just happened” to be a former Missionary and prayed with him. Do you think that was a coincidence? ‘’When God needs to reach you, He knows just the right person to send,” the patient said. God knew what this dying man needed- right down to the chips and the Coke. “Never underestimate what God can do for you.”
When Pastor Bill asked me to do a sermon on Nurses and other Caregivers at the Hospital and gave me my choice of Sunday’s in May, I decided to pick Mother’s Day. Mothers are the Ultimate Care Givers. It’s also National Nurses week- 170,000 strong in NJ! We are also blessed by Nurses from other states who have come to help us in NJ and NY fight this demon virus. All of the caregivers I mention today are also Moms or Dads. Due to Quarantine, many Moms have had to work from home AND teach multiple children besides do numerous other “motherly” jobs. Not easy! Today “Mothering” can be a broader term: Biological, Adoptive, could be your Dad, or Grandma, a Mothering Friend, Neighbor, Teacher, Coach, Boss, a Nurse, Care Giver or a man who cleans your room at the hospital as we saw in the video. The Spirit of God lives in them. They are busy loving their neighbor. These are the Cape-less Super Heroes of our times. When God needs to help us, He knows who to send.
That video of the “Dying Man” was sent to me by Tara, a close Nurse friend, whose own Mom, AnnaMarie, continues to fight Covid19 at Jersey Shore where Tara works. It’s been rough- ICU, 28 days intubated in a medically induced coma. AnnaMarie was moved after a trach was put in. According to strict guidelines, no one is allowed in to see AnnaMarie but “essential people”. Even Nurse Tara is not permitted to see her mother - very hard for this close-knit Italian family. We’ve had many texts, talks and prayers about Tara’s frustrations not being able to see her Mom. Tara works tirelessly to pay bills to care for her mother and daughter. She helps anyone in need, two legged and four, and runs herself ragged. It was unthinkable she couldn’t see her Mom or get critical information. Fr Michael went to investigate on Tara’s behalf. He located the new Nurse in charge of AnnaMarie’s care and pleaded Tara’s case. Soon Tara and Nurse Kelly exchanged cell numbers. Suddenly Tara got daily, sometimes hourly, updates on AnnaMarie. Even though Tara couldn’t be with her mother, this was wonderful. Tara got to see her Mom through a small window. Nurse Kelly revealed to Tara she also had a Mom who was ill in a nursing facility down South. Kelly had to rely on her Mom’sNurse to keep her updated! She understood how Tara felt. God sent the right person at the right time!
As time passed, Tara and Kelly became good friends. Tara told Kelly her Mom liked joking around and to feel free to say amusing things. Kelly would give AnnaMarie reports of how many cute Doctors she saw daily. Kelly would also whisper Tara’s name and other family member’s names in AnnaMarie’s ear at night. One night, AnnaMarie squeezed Kelly’s hand and opened her eyes briefly when Tara’s name was mentioned. I cried when Tara told me.
When Kelly is off duty, Nurse Tim, father of 3 small children, cares for AnnaMarie. This week Tim told Tara he is raising his kids in the Lord and the children already know the power of prayer. The youngest one would not go to bed without “praying for AnnaMarie first.” What a great example Tim and his kids are - showing their love of God and love of others.
In another part of Jersey Shore, a young new Nurse was added to the floor. Because of the “no visitors Covid19 policy”, Nurse Crystal was praying with dying patients. It was typical to lose one in a week on this critical floor, but with COVID, there were several in a day. She said,” It’s the saddest thing in the world to be holding up an iPad to dying patients as their family members said ‘goodbye’. Harder still to whisper in the ear of dying patients, ”Your family says it’s ok for you to go to God now. You can let go.” I have had to do this with patients and it’s something that never leaves you. Crystal is young yet full of such compassion and wisdom. God is clearly working in her.
These Nurses are not trained Chaplains - this is above and beyond the call of nursing duty. Much like the Scripture from Matthew - calling the Disciples to “heal the sick” and do whatever it takes. There is no one there to counsel these Nurses afterwards. They have no time to process anything they’ve seen or done – just move on to the next patient. And…these care givers have many patients. All of this extra care takes extra time, too. They already have 12 hour shifts.
Motherhood is similar but it has 24 hour shifts - it is not about the giver but the receiver. Mom’s learn with “on the job training”, too - in one day you can be chef, chauffeur, maid, handy “man”, doctor, vet, referee, teacher, coach and sometimes counselor.
Eight years ago I started my own Chaplain Education at Jersey Shore. I learned much - mostly how much I admire the Nursing/Care Giving Staff- a good percentage of it “Moms.” I’m happy the World seems to be showing some appreciation now that COVID19 has hit. It’s not a job to the Nurses, it’s a Vocation. Many of these Staffers buy, with their own money, clothing, books and art supplies for patients with no families. A good Nurse, like a good Mom, fills in the cracks of whatever is needed without a thought to themselves. It’s almost a 6th sense. I’m proud my niece Melissa has chosen this path and interning at the Cleveland Clinic. My time on the Oncology floor has shown me that all the Staffers: Nurses, Doctors, Patient Care Technicians, Maintenance, Dieticians, Clergy, Food delivery and yes, the Cleaners, work together as one body for the good of the patients. They have a “whatever it takes” mentality like the Matthew Scripture. It’s a well- oiled machine on Brennan 6. I know a multilingual woman Cleaner who has comforted patients who did not speak English. Imagine not being able to communicate with anyone when you are ill and alone in a hospital room? What a blessing this “Cleaner” is. What blessings they all are.
My friend, Pastor Cindy, also works at Jersey Shore. She has told me much about the horrors these health care workers on the “Front Lines” face daily, putting their own safety at stake, to help save strangers lives. It reminds me of Soldiers, or Police or Fire fighters. I wonder how many people are willing to do that? This is Christ-like behavior…to sacrifice yourself for others. Many of these health care workers have families they are separated from for fear of giving them the virus. After working 12-18 hour grueling shifts, these Nurses and Health Care workers are living in basements, away from their families for the past 2 months. The most common complaint is not being able to hug or kiss their children. They have difficulty sleeping because of the incredible war like conditions they view at the hospital over and over. I have no doubt that PTSD will be a COVID19 by product. Cindy has also told me about the many kindnesses of these Nurses who have so much extra work these days. They are helping, with donated iPads, to connect family members to COVID patients.
I learned about one Ministry called INSIDE OUT in Madison, Alabama that donates iPads to U.S. hospitals. They say their goal is to “fill in the gaps” and share God’s love in practical ways. They base their Ministry on not merely saying they love, but to show the truth by their actions. Isn’t that what our Mothers have done? Not just telling us they love us, but showing us in their care and concern each day for our personal welfare? Love isn’t Hallmark- it’s cleaning someone’s face after they threw up all night, making sure the blankets are tucked in so you are warm when you sleep, preparing your meals even after they have worked a full day and are bone tired, helping you with homework late into the night, passing up on a new pair of work shoes so you can get a nice outfit for the school dance, or correcting your behavior and enduring your insults so that you could grow up to be a better person? Maybe you had a mother like that (I did), or maybe you ARE a mother like that. Or maybe you will become a mother like that? Or maybe….you are one of the countless, nameless, health care workers who have “Freely Given”. Some - even with their lives. When God needed to reach us, He knew just the right people to send. The Spirit of God is alive and well in them. Thank you is not enough. To all Healthcare Workers at Jersey Shore and around the World, may God richly bless you and your families. We are already blessed by knowing you.