On Saturday, March 14, my Baptist Women in Ministry mentoring group gathered in Atlanta to deepen our connections face-to-face. The day featured lunch at Southern Sweets in Decatur, painting at The Sketching Pad in Conyers, and dinner at Revival Decatur. As I drove home to Nashville that evening, I remained blissfully unaware of how dramatically my life was about to change. 

The following morning, the mayor of Nashville issued a “Safer at Home Order” that closed non-essential businesses and encouraged residents to remain at home if possible. I work at a licensed addiction treatment center for women, so our doors would remain open due to the essential nature of our services, but changes in the workplace were required. Suddenly working reduced hours with less time spent in the building, I developed new ways of tending to the spiritual wellness of our clients and staff. Creativity and flexibility were required.

While adapting to changes in my workplace, I was reluctantly coming to terms with the impact of the pandemic on family plans. My son and his wife were expecting their first child on May 1, and Paul and I were eagerly anticipating the birth of our first grandchild. Our plans to drop everything and fly across the country to welcome this precious child into our family were no longer viable. Our daughter-in-law’s OB-GYN believed that it would not be safe for grandparents to travel to Oregon until at least June. This was not what I had planned.

Once again, adaption was required. I focused my energy on what I could do, rather than dwelling in the disappointment of what I could not do. I scheduled weekly Zoom calls with my extended family and planned Zoom dinner dates for Paul and me with friends near and far. Paul and I worshiped weekly online and walked regularly. I read ravenously and recorded my thoughts in my journal. I prayed for the health of my daughter-in-law and the child she was carrying. 

On April 22, 2020, Elias Paul Swiney entered the world in the midst of a pandemic, just as his great-grandmother had done in 1918. Elias had his first Zoom call within two hours of his birth. Paul and I celebrated his arrival from a distance with joyful hearts, anticipating the day when we would finally be able to meet him in person. While we waited, I continued to engage in the practices that sustained my soul: worshiping, Zooming, walking, reading, journaling, and praying.

Six weeks after our grandson’s birth, Paul and I donned our masks and flew cross-country to meet Elias. Our son picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel so we could decontaminate ourselves from our journey. When we finally crossed the threshold into their home and laid eyes on our grandson, I took a deep breath. This moment had been worth the wait.

Rev. Tambi Swiney is the Spiritual Wellness Coordinator at The Next Door, an addiction treatment center for women in Nashville, Tennessee.