What has made this especially difficult is that he lived in a care facility and, for a good part of last year, family was only able to interact with him by phone. His is not an isolated case; I personally know of others that faced a similar scenario and headline news stories indicate that this is something others are experiencing as well.
At the request of his wife, I started praying for him a couple of years ago. Even though I have not met him, talked to him, or known him for a long time, I consider him a friend. My friendship with him has been through her as she passes greetings from him to me and from me to him. Our friendship has grown, too, by what she has told me about him and the wonderful years they have had together.
You wouldn’t think that just praying for and hearing about someone from another person could create a close relationship with them, but it has. When his wife called to let me know he had died, I had tears in my eyes, and it was difficult to speak because it was sad news. Prior to his death, I worried about the pain he was having and prayed that he would be comfortable and pain free. And when family could not visit because of the pandemic, I asked God to be close to him and take away his loneliness. I knew this was very important because loneliness dries up a person’s spirit and can shorten their life just as easily as any other ailment they might have.
There are two reasons why I share this experience. First, there are countless individuals who are experiencing loneliness or isolation even as your read this article. And, second, maybe you and I can do something that would help. Realize that loneliness doesn’t happen just during pandemics — it can affect all of us at any time. But something important to remember is that we are not alone. Even Jesus experienced loneliness. Over Easter weekend, as we reflected on His death and resurrection, we must not forget that this was one of the loneliness times of His life. When He felt so alone in the garden and needed the strength that prayer brings, His closest friends were too tired to pray for him. And when He hung on the cross, He felt extreme loneliness and separation from His Father, caused not only by the sins of a wayward world but also because many of those He done so much for, deserted Him.
Through my experience, I have come to realize how important my prayers are and the difference they make for others as they face loneliness, isolation and difficult situations. It enables them to experience calmness and peace-in-the-midst of their storm because they know someone is praying for them. Combine prayer with a phone call now. You will be making a huge difference for someone else. It is amazing how much those calls are appreciated and looked forward to. There is another benefit in connecting with others — I find that I am not as lonely or stressed when I take time to reach out.
I think that praying for and connecting with others is an important part of stewardship, don’t you?
Jon Corder is Stewardship director of the Lake Union Conference.