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May 2020 Newsletter

Director's Note, Advance Care Planning for COVID-19, Interview with Pam Colyar (FCN at Hope Lutheran), and Devotional on Grief.

Dear health ministries community,

Happy nurses week! Today I spotted a Western Tanager in my front yard, a delightful, bright yellow bird with a red head that migrates from Central America all the way to British Columbia. Yesterday I made a "monster truck fort" with my three year old son. These moments are gifts and I am trying to knit them around my heart like a prayer shawl. Focusing on just today and noticing the small things have been helpful for me. I hope you are also finding ways to cope with our current reality.

Later in this newsletter, Rev. Dr. Cindy Bauleke reminds us we are grieving and offers practical advice on how to support those who are grieving the death of a loved one. Cindy's words are weighted with the experience of supporting countless (100s?) families in grief; her words are like gold and I will treasure them for years to come.

There are also concrete things you can do to prepare for COVID-19 (other than washing your hands): Talk to your loved ones about your wishes for end of life care if you were to contract COVID-19 and need hospitalization. Organize an online event at your congregation to help people to complete their advance directives or talk to their medical decision makers. There are now advance directive addendums that specifically address COVID-19 treatment. Learn more on our ACP for COVID-19 page. When else could this topic be more relevant?

Also, looking for hope? Look no further than one of the amazing, generous faith community nurses at Hope Lutheran in Lynden: Pam Coylar. Pam is truly one of my favorite people and each time I speak with her I'm reminding of the passionate way that faith community nurses move through the world (even if that movement is currently restricted). Join me in prayers of thanks for Pam and all the faith community nurses and health ministers dedicated to caring for others.

In Peace,

Amelia Vader Executive Director

Upcoming Events

May Meeting

Friday, May 15, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Zoom Video Conference Call

Join us on Zoom for updates to Advance Care Planning during COVID-19 with Hillary Walker from PeaceHealth using the meeting link sent out in our email newsletter.

Didn't get a link? Email For those who have not used Zoom before, watch this in-depth instructional video on how to set it up.

Recording disclaimer: The latter half of this meeting is a presentation and Q&A which will be recorded and sent out to FCNs & HMs who cannot attend live. The recording will be, "speaker-view," which means only the person who is talking is visible in the recording, such as the presenter or anyone making a comment or asking a question. If you would not like to be a part of the recording, you can stop sharing video, or mute yourself and use the chat box to ask participate. Contact with any questions.

June Meeting

Friday, June 19, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Zoom Video Conference Call

Tentatively planned take place via Zoom, stay tuned for updates!

Community Events & Info

In an effort to connect our volunteers with relevant resources, we publish community events and information in our monthly newsletter and on our website. Email to add your own.

Advance Care Planning for COVID-19

Here are local resources to help you clarify your wishes around medical care and treatment if you are hospitalized for COVID-19 including the realities of advanced medical interventions, advance care planning workshops, addendum options for advance directives, and communication resources for health care workers.

COVID-19 Info & Resources

HMN's compilation of resources and information concerning COVID-19 for you and your congregation includes closure information, how to effectively clean and disinfect, community services information, how to talk to your family about COVID-19 and more. #spreadthefacts

Move 4 A Cause

Every Friday, 4 - 4:30 PM

Zoom Video Conference Call

Motivation can be hard to find these days, so every Friday from 4 - 4:30 PM Dementia Support Northwest will be moving and grooving to a different decade, beginning with the 1950s!! Register for this free event. $10 suggested donation to benefit Dementia Support Northwest.

Proactive Care Planning in the Time of COVID-19

Wednesday May 20, noon

Zoom Video Conference Call

In a time when so much feels out of our control, pro-active planning for medical care is something that will allow you to communicate your priorities, to empower those who love and care for you to be strong advocates for you

Whatcom CHW Monthly Meeting

Friday May 22, 9 - 11AM

Zoom Video Conference Call

Join other community health workers for networking and resources. Email for the meeting link.

COVID-19 Support for Caregivers

The Palliative Care Institute has initiated a weekly on-line support group for staff at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, providing in-home care, and/or hospice care, creating a virtual space for them to come together to talk about the impact of the pandemic on their work and their clients and residents -- a kind of ‘COVID coffee break room,’ a place to sit down to talk for a few minutes with others who are also struggling to reconfigure all aspects of care. By gathering their thoughts, PCI hopes be a vehicle for sharing these stories more widely with those outside their worlds. Anyone who would like to join this support group can email to request the Zoom link.

ACP Needs Assessment

Honoring Choices PNW is asking for your help to identify the needs of the vulnerable populations you serve. The needs assessment will help Honoring Choices PNW know how best to support your ACP efforts. Five organizations that have complete the needs assessment will be chosen to receive free ongoing consultation for the next year and free ACP resources, in English and Spanish, such as from


Pam Colyar, FCN

(pictured above holding her grandson at a prayer shawl ceremony for Rev. Dick Cathell)

Hope Lutheran, Lynden, WA

25 years of health ministry (since 1995)

Tell me about some of your interests.

I would say I am a family person. I love spending time with my husband, Duane, our kids, and six grandkids. We often take trips to visit them, which is such a joy, but we haven’t been able to do that as much lately because of Duane’s cancer, and now with COVID-19 we are isolating altogether. Though, on Easter we hid a bunch of eggs in our yard and got to watch 3 grandkids search for them through the window which was fun. I told my grandson that after COVID-19 I’m going to need a lot of hugs from him.

What’s something you learned recently?

I’ve learned how to use Zoom and Facetime to connect with others during isolation which has been helpful. I also learned that there are a lot more people in my family than there are in my church. I had wondered why I was so busy all the time, but now it makes sense!

Tell me about your faith and nursing background.

I started nursing as an LPN in the early 70’s right out of high school. Then I got my RN license and worked in a number of positions including medical-surgical, neurological care, a doctor’s office, internal medicine, psychiatric nursing at Western State Hospital, and Child Study and Treatment Center where I was injured by a patient and lost my job. After that I had to meet several requirements and in doing so went to PLU and took the Parish Nursing course. Since then, I’ve been a parish nurse at three different Lutheran congregations. I’ve been at Hope Lutheran in Lynden since I retired in 2007.

Pam speaking at HMN's Spirit of Giving.

Why do you do health ministry? What do you enjoy about it?

For me personally, I was so excited that I found out about it and was able to get my training before I retired because that’s what I wanted to do when I retired. There’s joy in being able to help somebody, and it’s surprising when they help you, too. More so, when I retired, I found that I had a balance in my life between family and work and everything. I didn’t have balance before since I was always taking care of other people, now it’s spaced out and not all the time.

There have been times when I needed to do a visit and I would have one of the grandkids go with me and felt guilty that I was doing this. That was until my 2-year-old grandson came with me to visit a lady with dementia. Usually, she wouldn’t talk to me but when my grandson showed up, she was very talkative with him. That was very sweet, and there have been other times where my grandkids have made this ministry better. My granddaughter has come on several visits to families with dogs. I’m afraid of dogs but she is able to play with them which allows me to focus on the people. There have also been times when there are two people to talk to and my granddaughter will spend time with one while I talk to the other. She has also baked cookies for people.

What programs or activities make up your ministry during COVID-19?

A lot of phone calls to see how people are doing as well as encouraging everyone to exercise at home. I’ve been coordinating mask delivery as well. I’ve been through the church directory twice now and have connected with most people, which has been really important for folks living by themselves. I’m also continuing to pray for everyone, and some of us are still making prayer shawls and would be happy to deliver them (to a porch) if needed.

Pam (2nd from the left) at Hope Lutheran.

What is challenging about being a faith community nurse (FCN) during COVID-19?

The most challenging thing is not being able to see people in person. It’s not the same experience over the phone because you don’t see their expressions, and most of Hope Lutheran is older and unable to do a video call. Even with video it’s not the same and you can’t get the sense of how someone is really doing. I can’t check blood pressures, see into the home, or give a hug, and people are really missing this in-person support. People that have mental health issues or are living totally alone have an even harder time. Also, people who have recently lost a loved one are in an extremely difficult situation, it’s really hard to be taken away from those connections. For the most part, people are doing well right now and are fairly healthy. People are staying pretty well isolated, but you can always find good and bad.

What advice do you have for fellow faith community nurses and health ministers right now?

We all need to be praying and praying for God’s guidance. When you feel prompted to make a phone call, listen to that instinct and don’t put it off. There may very well be someone on the other end who needs to talk to you.

What’s upcoming in your health ministry during COVID-19? After?

I’m not really sure right now. I don’t think we’re going to go back to how we were completely. I anticipate everyone being more careful about things, not just with COVID-19, but transmitting illness in general, especially within my congregation since it is older.

Women's retreat and prayer shawl group

Aside from COVID-19, what is the most significant health issue facing your congregants?

Our congregation is very old and there have been a lot of deaths since I began, so aging, and especially end-of-life, related issues are the biggest concerns at Hope Lutheran. I am very comfortable talking about death and aging and always have been, even in my personal life. I’ve found that many people know when they’re going to go and they want to talk about it because they have questions and concerns, but sadly they’re often not able to because others won’t allow them. For example, when my grandma was dying, she was so excited that I would talk to her about it.

Do you have a story of when health ministry made a difference in somebody's life?

Many years ago, there was a lady in our community (our church received a call from the landlady) who had mental health issues and couldn’t afford her rent. I built a relationship with her first but she refused any help. Regardless, I set out to help her move since she needed to be in subsidized housing. What I had to do was very tricky. I couldn’t ask anyone from our church to help as she didn’t want anyone knowing. So I reached out to folks in Bellingham to get help, and they helped her move. When you do help people, you don’t always expect it to go well and in this case, she was upset with me for unknown reasons. But she was able to live better, with cheaper rent, and eventually got into the system and now has long-term care services.

Interviewed by Sampson Alvarado in April 2020.


Courtesy of Rev. Dr. Cindy Bauleke, HMN Board Spiritual Adviser

We are well acquainted with grief. We can’t be in the helping professions and not know grief. We know there are five stages of grief as identified by Elisabeth Kubler Ross. We know everyone deals with it in their own way, at their own pace. We know a lot about grief. We know how to comfort and listen and pray with those who grieve. What we don’t know as well, is how to deal with grief during this pandemic.

Grief is not just about death; in these days many are grieving so many losses in their lives: freedom to make their own choices, jobs, income, favorite things outside the home, entertaining, time with friends and family. You can hear it coming out in a range of emotions from anger to depression. People miss their lives as they once knew them and are grieving. How do we help them live and grow in this challenging time? There is no one answer for everyone.

I believe grief is some of the hardest work we do, made even more difficult these days. When someone we love is dying, we cope by being present, holding their hand, perhaps playing their favorite music, praying. Our presence is a gift. It is so difficult when we cannot be present and our loved one dies alone in a hospital or nursing home. It is a huge loss when we are unable to be present. After the death, we seek to be comforted and to comfort with our presence and our hugs. We gather to share the stories of their lives and how they have influenced our own. We have the rituals of funerals, memorial services, and celebrations of life in which the gathered community remember them and give thanks to God for the gift of their lives. None of this is easy. The grief work is difficult as we work to piece our lives back together in new ways. As much as we know God’s presence is with us, somehow it is so comforting to have the presence of people we trust walk with us through this time.

I know you already know all this, yet, I share this as a reminder that for each person grief is different and in this time so many people are grieving. So what do we do? Pretty much what we do all the time, but at a distance, which admittedly is challenging. Still people need to talk: be ready to listen if they are ready to share their grief or their stories, follow their lead. Silence is OK. Acknowledge just how difficult it is. Find a way to express your love. Ask if they would like a prayer – simply thank God for this life and ask for God’s comfort for family and friends who grieve. Encourage others in your community to text or email them -- reminding them they are cared for, it’s the technological equivalent of holding their hand.

Please use the word “death” rather than “passed away.” The person died. Speak their name. Suggest to others in your community, in addition to sending a card or note, make a casserole, mow the lawn, or whatever you are aware they need. It's better than saying “if you need anything” -- just do it. DO NOT SAY: “Part of God’s plan,” “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Even if this is your belief, it may not be theirs; simple expressions of condolences are more helpful.

Perhaps most important for me is to pray before I talk with someone grieving, seeking God’s guidance and wisdom. Sharing the journey of grief is an incredible privilege. There is no one way to do this, most importantly just do it, trusting the Spirit to guide you.

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