The phenomenon of social distancing has produced some startling revelations, one of which is the value of human touch. I fully recognize there is a wide spectrum of preferences, from extremely huggy-types to those who feel better keeping their distance.
But as we are now over a month into strong contagion control measures, many people are really feeling the loss of simple human touch. A handshake, a pat on the back, a hug. This would be especially true for those who live alone. One friend who is widowed told me she hasn’t touched another human being in six weeks, and jokingly expressed fear she would hug everyone to death once touch was allowed again. As a person on the ‘touchy’ side of the scale, her statement resonates strongly with me.
But the ban on gathering and touching is the most grievous for those confronted with bereavement. The death of our loved ones is a time when the need is strongest to gather and express sympathy in words, tears and hugs. Yet funeral and memorial service gatherings at present are all prohibited, leaving the bereaved to face their loss largely alone.
We have felt the impact of this here at Evergreen. The first event we had to cancel due to coronavirus was Hazel Stein’s memorial service, scheduled for March 14. What was expected to be a standing-room-only gathering to celebrate her life is now postponed until who knows when. In the five weeks since, three of our sisters in Christ have lost their husbands. Caroline Ruhmshottel’s husband Phil passed away on March 18 due to complications resulting from a bad fall. Lela Levin lost her husband Don on March 28 from a sudden aneurism. Then just last Friday, Scott Johnson died of pneumonia, and dear Irene is having to deal with everything herself, along with her children.
These are the times when the church would normally be present, visiting in the hospital, praying at the bedside, helping put together a service, and significantly, giving hugs and a shoulder to cry on. But while we are limited, we can still take them time to care. May I ask you to consider reaching out with a card to one of these dear women? Even if you do not know them, we are part of the same family, and they need our love now more than ever.