Coronavirus has changed all our lives in so many ways. One of the saddest changes is the absence of seeing and hugging family. But through sadness, in our situation, we found some illumination and a bright light that brought a smile to my husband Mitch and myself.
Our eldest daughter, Jessica ( age 38), is non-verbal. Although Jess is unable to speak using words, Jess can hum many familiar tunes. She has a range from Jingle Bells, once hummed quite loudly at Temple, to the Shema (pronounced shuh–mah, and is one of the core Jewish prayers) plus many other tunes that lift one’s spirits.
We have not physically seen Jess since February 25th. How do we explain to Jess that we are unable to visit her, to give her a hug and too many kisses? That we cannot hold her hand or look at videos and photos on my phone together. We cannot share a chocolate decadent cake or go outside for a walk. That her siblings, nephew and niece or her friends Sheryl and Ellen can’t visit.
Jessica lives in a group home two miles from our house, but she may as well be 200 miles away since families are not allowed to enter her home and she is not permitted to exit. We are thankful to her house manager, Kelly, and staff who are strictly keeping these rules. Most of the women in Jessica’s house are vulnerable and every day we wake up thinking, “ is this the day that someone will be exposed?”
So, we Facetime. Jessica’s superpower is connecting with those she loves, and it is no surprise that Jess is able to embrace and engage in Facetiming. She is not sad that we are not there in person, her smile and joy emanate through the phone at seeing our faces and hearing our voices.
Last week, Mitch and I were Facetiming with Jessica and decided we would try to have a conversation with music. Mitch was the videographer with his phone while I started humming the Shema to Jessica. (see Facebook page RaisingJessStory for the actual video https://www.facebook.com/RaisingJessStory/).
Jess looked at me, rubbed her nose, and immediately sang the Shema back to me! We were talking, we were singing, we were communicating and we were speaking the language of love and music.
We have sung with Jess in the past, but she usually takes a several minutes to sing the song back to us but this time the pause in between my singing and her reply was conversational; immediate.
Coronavirus has changed all our lives but in the depths of sadness about not seeing those closest to us came a magical moment. I think we all need to focus on the magic moments while we are social distancing in our homes.
We will get through this apart in proximity but together in unity.
(This article was printed in the Jewish Journal of Western New York, May 2020 – https://buffalojewishfederation.org/jewish-journal/)
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