This week I turn forty. There was a time when I would have been devastated by that birthday, that number, and the overall implications of how much of my life has already been spent.

This season has prompted a new perspective.

I am a hospice chaplain in Louisville, KY, serving an inpatient care center on the east side of downtown. The season of Covid-19 has been one of great transformation for me and the world around me. I have never felt so far away from the God I love and so determined to fight for hope and connection to my faith.  

Covid reared its ugly head in my family the second week of March when I brought the illness home. We were lucky to have a “mild” experience of the virus. I spent almost three weeks watching my world fall apart on television while my adolescent daughters lay their heads on my chest like they did when they were tiny. My daughters and I were learning harsh realities of this broken world.

Louisville has also been struggling to battle the evils of racism and police reform after the death of a sweet, young woman named Breonna Taylor. She was killed because she was a black woman in a black neighborhood; she had a history with a drug dealer who had long since parted from her life. The true roots of that tragedy are still unknown to our community, but the battle to fight for something better continues from groups.  

My heart ached to worship alongside my family of faith, but my church was closed along with most others in the state. That situation stole many of my coping strategies (Thank God for reliable chocolate!). Even my ministry as a chaplain has become murky for me. Our organization has gone to extreme efforts to keep Covid-19 from coming to the unit, but it found us a few times anyway. These rare experiences required additional precaution, care, and isolation for everyone on the floor. Staffing irregularities created the need for strong collaboration across our team. While our structure and order are still in place, there were days when our professional hierarchy was less visible. Administrators, managers, chaplains, and CNAs alike provide many of the same types of support for patients. We all fulfill our promise to care for people at the end of their lives.

My pastoral identity is my solidarity alongside my colleagues as we just make it through another day. I wear scrubs to work. I help mop floors, answer phones, and feed patients at mealtime when needed. Even though my purpose feels blurry at times, I clearly remember who I am as I kneel at the bedside of a patient who lingers at the threshold of Heaven. I recite a sacred text, hold their hand, or sing a hymn and their entire body relaxes down into a peaceful release. In those moments, I find the sanctuary I crave. In those moments, there is overwhelming, bittersweet peace and connection to something sacred.

I have come to believe that our faith can be reinforced and armored through seasons of darkness. This time makes me think of the Israelites throughout their years in the wilderness. Certainly, they did not know how long it would last. They may or may not have understood where they were headed. They followed uncertain leaders who were doing their best. The point is this, through their decades in the wilderness they kept walking. They kept moving together.

And so, in our current season of uncertainty when it feels as though we have lost all that is familiar, I choose to keep walking. I continue the stupid Zoom meetings that will never replace the satisfaction of an honest-to-God hug. I call my friends and have dinner with a laptop at the head of the table so my parents can attend virtual birthday parties. It’s not the same, but we are still walking. I choose to find hope in imagining the strength we are building even as we remain in the middle of this wilderness. I am tired, sometimes heartbroken, but I have faith. I still believe we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Kate Anderson is a Chaplain and CPE Supervisory Candidate at Hosparus & St. Matthews Pastoral Counseling Center in Louisville, Kentucky,