Jonathan Dorrington, Business Manager at Finborough Court care home, looks back on a year of shock and sorrow, but also faith and hope in Jesus.
As we shut our doors just before Mother's Day last year, the reality of the coronavirus pandemic finally hit home at Finborough Court. It was a turning point, a realisation that life was about to change completely and wouldn't return to normal for a long time.
Even then, in the sadness of knowing loved ones would be kept apart on a special day, and the fear of the unknown journey ahead, I didn't know just how bad things would get.
As the initial weeks of the lockdown progressed, I realised that we were in the eye of the storm – the virus had got into our care home before we had the stringent infection control, PPE and social distancing measures in place, and we began to lose treasured members of our Finborough Court family. Our journey through the valley of the shadow of death had begun.
We see all our care home residents as family, so when one member of our family, David, who had lived with us for several years, passed away at the beginning of the pandemic — the first of more deaths to come in our home — we all shared a deep sense of loss and grief.
David's wife Ann used to visit him regularly, having lunch with him and sharing life with us in the home and seeing her sorrow was heartbreaking. At first there was barely time to take a breath — let alone grieve — as we hurriedly tried to understand the government guidance which changed day by day, got hold of the necessary PPE and attempted to adapt to a very different home life than we were used to.
But in the midst of the sadness and grief, I experienced a new sense of unity and purpose as we worked our hardest to keep everyone safe. For the staff team, the despair actually brought us together; we rallied around one another, supporting each other through the challenges we were all facing, not just at work but at home as well.
David's wife Ann sent us lovely cards and gifts to thank us for the love and care we had given David over the years, and the local village would come to clap outside the home every Thursday, lifting our spirits.
We were also held together by the Christian faith that many of our staff and residents share. We knew we were literally in the valley, but we also knew God's presence in the home, caring for us and guiding as we journeyed together. When I look back, I can see God's answer to our biggest prayer: that we would just be able to keep going.
As the months progressed, spring and summer brought some much-needed relief. Once we were clear of the virus and we knew that our procedures were doing their job of keeping everyone safe, the atmosphere of life and fun that we were used to at Finborough Court returned.
Re-opening visits was wonderful as the smiles on the faces of our residents and their loved ones brightened our day. And of course, the roll out of the vaccine over the last few months means we really are climbing out of this particular valley.
This year we can look back and see how faith in God has brought us through a dark season. The village raised some money for the staff which we will use to create a memorial in our garden to remember those we lost. I, along with the Finborough Court team and the wider Pilgrims' Friend Society family, worshipped God in the midst of the storm, and we will continue to worship Him in the light too.
He has been faithful to us, guiding us and staying with us even in our saddest and most trying moments.
Jonathan Dorrington joined Pilgrims' Friend Society as Business Manager in 2019. He is a committed Christian and is part of a church plant in Ipswich. Jonathan had a passion for high standards in care combined with a hands-on and people centred approach. To learn more about the work of Pilgrims' friend Society in helping people live fulfilled later lives and how to deal with grief, go to https://www.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk/ or follow them on social media @PilgrimsFS.