A reflection on isolation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by Fr George Bowen.
This reflection on isolation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic comes from Fr George Bowen, a member of the Community of Fathers of the London Oratory, and an old friend of The Art of Dying Well.
You can listen to an audio recording of Fr George’s reflection on isolation or read his words.
“Here’s a brief reflection which might provide support to those who could be faced with the awful prospect of a loved one dying in isolation, away from all human contact other than nursing staff or carers.
“Let’s start by asking – if you could be with your loved one by the bedside, what would you be doing or saying to provide comfort?
Maybe you would imagine yourself saying very little at all. Sitting in silence, just holding hands, making physical contact. After all, touch is the first language which we learn, it’s a foundational way of communicating and especially communicating compassion.
“Or maybe you would want to break the silence so that the sound of your voice and the voices of other members of the family provide assurance that your loved one is not alone.”
“But if you’re a believing Christian, you can bring another dimension to the bedside. You recall that the message of Christian hope speaks of your loved one making a journey towards God – a journey towards a spiritual embrace. And you might intersperse your time by the bedside with prayers and reflections that convey Christian hope.
“And I can tell you, this brings enormous comfort, comfort not just to your loved one, but also to yourself and your family. It transforms the dark atmosphere and imbues it with light – because you’re reminding each other that death is not the end, but the beginning of a new relationship.
“But what about now? Now, tragically, you’re confronted by the prospect of your loved one dying in isolation. You can’t hold their hand, your voice – your voices can’t provide assurance.”
“But somehow or another, you can still pray the prayers that you’d have prayed at the bedside, putting your loved one into the hands of God, and asking the angels and saints to join in your prayers.
“You could ask the hospital chaplain or local priest to go to the bedside and pray with your loved one. And if he can, provide the last sacraments, or you could ask one of the carers or nurses on your behalf to pray the prayers which you’d have prayed with your loved one.
“And you’ll find examples of the prayers which you can pray here on this website. So choose some which appeal most and pray them yourselves in your own home, isolated though you are. And send them to the hospital or care home if the priest can’t come. And in so doing, you’ll be providing the best comfort and support that you could.”
“You might not be able to touch your loved one physically. But you are uniting in the spirit and in the knowledge that your loved one is not really in isolation at all, but entrusted through your prayers to the vast company of the church here present, and with the angels and saints, as he or she is placed in the hands of almighty God.”
Read more Catholic prayers and reflections.