A couple of weeks ago, I received my COVID-19 vaccination. I didn’t think too much of it as I was driving to the health department. Even as I waited in a socially distanced line, I felt no measurable wave of emotion. But when that needle pierced my skin, I noted myself flooded with emotions. As a chaplain, I am always interested in emotions, and when my chaplain colleagues and I see them in others and in ourselves, we often ask, “What’s that all about?”
This past year, I have been serving as a spiritual caregiver at Emmanuel Hospice in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have always felt privileged serving patients and families as they journey through the end of life.
In this particular role and through this pandemic, I have witnessed God’s never-ceasing faithfulness, and the memories of the people I have encountered have indeed given me hope for our world. I have observed nurses putting the wellbeing of patients ahead of their own, relentlessly standing watch at the bedside, ensuring their presence and companionship when no others could be there.
I remember the retired pastor, now a patient, offering a prayer with his neighbor and fellow residents in the midst of confusion and turmoil. I remember the family huddled outside their loved one’s window as she took her last breath. I’ve reflected on family members scattered around the world, coming together on Zoom in celebration of their father’s life and resurrection. God’s mercies are without ceasing.
I never thought my ministry routine would come to include sanitizing hands at least 50 times a day, putting on masks, face shields, gowns, gloves, booties, and then saying a prayer of protection for good measures—all this in the hopes of preventing an insidious virus that I’ve now been vaccinated against.
When I assess my own feelings as I received my vaccine—and was flooded with recent ministry memories and experiences—I must admit an overwhelming feeling of relief. There’s been so much stress through the pandemic, and the vaccine reminded me that there is a glimmer of hope.
I am also reminded that God’s mercies continue, and God’s faithfulness is without ceasing. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).
I feel humbled witnessing God’s redemptive love and grace so often experienced even as death draws near. God’s abiding presence and faithfulness is felt even in the messiness, in grief, and during a pandemic. God’s mercies find a way, often through people like nurses, nursing home residents, a grandchild at a window, and my fellow chaplains. May we all be people of hope as we witness God’s presence and faithfulness in this unpredictable world.
David Veldt is an ordained minister of Word and sacrament in the Reformed Church in America who serves as a hospice chaplain. He is also a regional disability advocate for the North Grand Rapids Classis.