There was a memorial service today to remember those that have died at Meadbank Care Home, in Battersea, over the last year. They planted a remembrance tree too.
Evalyn, is fantastic. She’s a KLS supporter and member of St Mary’s Church (one of our co-founders). She spoke at today’s event and got in touch with me this morning saying, “I just wanted to share again with you how important and meaningful your generosity & inspiration about making the i-pad loan to Meadbank was — isn’t it strange how something so small can in the end make such a difference… The staff shared just how hard & scared they were but that they stayed and fought and didn’t give up. They really are the unsung heroes these amazing people. So grateful to have the chance to work with them a little! The online connection was so so so important!! Thank you again for helping us get through the worst part of the pandemic & staying connected!!”
What follows is Evalyn’s speech:
“Hi, my name is Evalyn and I serve as a lay member of the pastoral team from St. Mary’s Church, Battersea. I am honored that Yolanda asked me to come speak to you about what I’ve experienced and learned during my time praying with the residents at Meadbank during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If I am honest – and this seems like a good time to be really honest – when I put down the phone from talking to Yolanda, I just sat at my desk and cried. I cried those really hot fat tears—you know the ones – -those big rolley ones that fall right down you face because you’re not expecting them. Well, I was not expecting that call or those tears. I probably cried so hard because I hold a lot of grief in my heart over what the residents, carers, and family members with family at Meadbank have gone through because of COVID.
Nobody here, I think, ever imagined that one day we’d be standing here planting a tree in memory of those who worked or lived in Meadbank who died from COVID. And I don’t think anyone imagined we’d still not be able to visit the residents in person. But I am sure I found myself crying because I hold so much admiration for the hard work and resilience that I see, week in and week out, year in and year out, here at Meadbank.
I’m going to be honest – again, it seems important to be honest—that even though I’d been helping with church services at Meadbank for seven years, before the pandemic, I didn’t really ‘get’ that many of the residents of Meadbank are here for end of life care. But two years ago, suddenly, St. Mary’s – like everywhere else—had to bar people from the building. We were locked out and locked down. But still we wanted to stay connected and we wanted to help. Carol Brindle, who ran our team, talked to our vicar, Simon Butler about our problems. Simon happened to be meeting with Aaron Barbour, at the Katherine Low Settlement – and Simon shared the problem and Aaron said, “Hey, we’ve got iPads we can’t use in lockdown, so let’s loan them to Meadbank.”
So that’s what happened.
With the loan of the three KLS iPads, we were able to keep praying with the residents and the residents were able to talk to their families. This small loan became a life line – one that’s been replaced by BUPA iPhones – but for two years I’ve been meeting online, three days a week, on three different floors, with the residents.
I’ve found myself being carried down the hall by carers – the signal fading in and out – and then into the rooms of residents. We talk about how they are doing. The residents talked about being lonely but always asked for prayers for their friends and their family. We say the Lord’s Prayer together on good days, and even on those inevitable down days, I’ll say a blessing. Then, sometimes a resident will say – “Well, now I will sleep better.”
Week after week, year after year, I have worked with Meadbank’s activity team. I’d like to name the people I work with: Agnes, Dorcas, Maureen, Shereen, Roger and their fearless leader Yolanda. And I have seen how hard the activity team works to make life better for the residents, so many of whom are not in a position to help themselves.
I try to check in on everyone to see how they’re doing – because during COVID everyone here has had to face their own fear, fight it down, come to work and come together, not understanding or even knowing what was going to happen next—especially when the pandemic began and was at its worst.
There’s going to be—one day—a national enquiry into why COVID patients were released from hospitals into care homes – but everyone who worked here, at that time, knows how it all went down, how there was little or no PPE equipment, not enough understanding of COVID itself and there certainly was no real public understanding of what was happening inside care homes across the country. To everyone who was working at that time, I simply want to say thank you.
Thank you for showing me what lay at the heart of the pandemic – a space of shared community, a space that has opened up for all of us in the weeks and months and years of this pandemic with an ever-strengthening desire to stay connected to one another in a time of trouble.
At St. Mary’s, as our congregation learned more and more about the difficulties being faced by the staff, residents and families of Meadbank, our desire to support Meadbank grew. We even started crocheting little hearts for the residents to hold in their hands, maybe to give to family members who couldn’t see them. My friend Carol said, though she didn’t want to tell me, that she thought this was a really tacky idea – but the team said it brought joy and smiles. And so we’ve done even more, made snowflakes for Christmas, dementia muffs, blankets, scarves, and now our multi-faith stitching group STITCHING TOGETHER is making slippers.
When we heard about the shortfalls in toiletries, that were occurring because patients keep arriving from the five local hospital, often with nothing, we’ve been able to collect donations of soap, razors, toothpaste and toothbrushes, body wash, shaving cream, nail polish and clothes, including underwear. Even our annual carol service, performed here in the parking lot, was sung with a deeper sense of purpose.
This year, as the notes from the choir carried up past the lounge windows, we could see the residents in their chairs and wheelchairs waving back and singing. St. Mary’s feels connected to Meadbank in a new, different and way. It is just a gift to be here today to watch a tree planted in the memory of the staff and residents who died of COVID-19. I want you to know, that in the years to come, I am planning to come see this tree grow into all its glory. You all work so hard, and keep working so hard, to be present, kind and respectful with all the Meadbank residents, especially the ones who are coming to the end of their life.
Years from now, I hope to stand under this tree, and tell my family about the people who died of COVID-19 at Meadbank. Because I want to tell them how… during the worst days of the pandemic….when everyone working at Meadbank was hurting, scared, sad and tired, they reached deep down inside themselves to find love …. and then they gave it.