We never know how strong we are until we face a challenge. We never know what we are capable of doing until we have to do it. And we certainly never know who people really are until they are faced with a difficult situation and their true colors emerge.
While we know all of this to be true, we have seen these truths play out over and over again in the last few months. Many of us have been faced with situations that we could never even have imagined. We have confronted an invisible, devious and deadly enemy and we have had to find every bit of courage, every drop of creativity and every ounce of strength to fight back.
People have stepped up and people have stepped into roles that they never expected to play. We came to elder care to work with older adults, to develop long relationships with them, to help them live fully in this last phase of life. Never did we imagine that we would be on the frontlines, providing complex medical care in the midst of a pandemic, but this is where we are.
What we cannot forget is the toll that this has taken on each of us and every member of our staff. We have all lived with anxiety and stress, wondering where this would end and what would happen next. We have watched beloved elders struggle with this virus and we have been there for their last moments. We have witnessed families saying goodbye over FaceTime. We have watched our own family members and friends become victims and there has been no time to come to terms with their loss, much less grieve.
We all have had to be strong and positive as our colleagues and our elders take their cues from us. We keep “smiling under our masks” even as we sometimes feel that our hearts are breaking, even as we know that we have spent another sleepless night, struggling with a sense of loss and grief, fighting an incessant anxiety.
At some point, and we hope soon, these last few months will begin to fade into memory. But the knowledge about ourselves and others that we have gained will not fade, the lessons we have learned will not disappear and the strength we have found will carry us forward. We will need that strength, and more, to help ourselves and others find healing, find hope, find peace.