Hugs: Be the Last One to Let Go

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA July 4, 2020

Hugs These are strange times in this changing world. COVID has kept us home and isolated. Even though many areas have gone to “Green”, there are still restrictions and face masks are mandatory in public places. And although the numbers have been decreasing, there are areas where they are slowly rising.

What to do? It is well known that hugging has inherent value. If you’ve been “Sheltering in Place” since March, it is almost unbearable to be without human contact. And more than just social interaction, the touch of another. The first weekend that “Outdoor Dining” was allowed? The restaurants were mobbed. Why? Getting out for a meal was one aspect, but even more, the social value of being out with others was finally realized.

Touch We long for human touch. The cotton industry began a campaign long ago with this foundational fact. “The touch, the feel of cotton, the fabric of our lives.”

What’s so Special about Hugs? If you’ve ever held a baby, you know the value of that human touch. It calms and soothe a fussy infant. And it helps us as well. Hugging induces oxytocin, the “bonding hormone,” thats renowned for reducing stress, lowering cortisol levels and increasing a sense of trust and security. It makes sense then, that hugs strengthen the immune system. As the Pandemic wears on, the desire to be with others, and the desire for human touch has only strengthened.

Perhaps that is why we are getting more irritable and “cabin fever” is sky high. That pent up feeling has reached a climax.
Another friend has been expecting his first grandchild. He just turned 71. He and his wife purposely were COVID tested: negative. This set the stage for a long road trip to see that dear little boy who was just born.

Such longing and expectation! That first embrace will surely be magical.

Books: A dear friend saw this dynamic of “Socially Distant Hugs” and wrote about it:

If You Can’t Bear Hug, Air Hug: A Book Inspired by Social Distancing Paperback – May 23, 2020, Katie Sedmak (

“Join fuzzy bears, flapping owls, and more adorable animal friends as they prove that distance can’t overcome love and friendship!
“If You Can’t Bear Hug, Air Hug” is an uplifting book of rhymes for children that explores the creative ways animals might show affection while socially distancing and delivers a reassuring message of love and resilience.”

Visit for more info.

Different groups For singles, the desire, or even the need for physical touch has become paramount. How do they handle that strong need? I know of several groups who have become a “family” together, basically “sheltering in place” with a small group. It brought socialization, fellowship, and interaction.

For the elderly, there is a unique risk. To become too close to others may expose them to the virus. Since the discovery of asymptotic carriers, this is a very real threat. How many babies have been born since March? And how many grandparents are yearning to see those new babies? And more than just to see them, but to tenderly enfold them in their arms?

And with nursing and care homes locked down, the isolation the elderly feel is very real:

Beauty for Ashes- Hope and Healing in Jesus Christ May 26 at 6:59 PM “She’s 98. And the isolation and loneliness came over her in a river of tears at my visit. Not able to see her son or daughter for 6 weeks. She wants to die. Because at 98 the waiting is too much. I offered to FaceTime her son. She cried more. She wanted a real hug. I in my PPE said enough. I too bent over into her arms she wrapped so tight around me. I broke the rule. I hugged her till she could breathe. We both had a healing. I’d do it again. Love matters most. The older folks in long term care haven’t been touched or hugged. It’s causing failure to thrive. Hugs are a necessary part of living. “ – shared from a nurse from a Covid healthcare workers site, because THIS right here is what the world needs to see page2image56588720(shared with approval or said nurse…thank you)
Jennifer Rose”.

Innovation: The Hug Tunnel Necessity is the mother of invention. (Plato) Take note:
“A care home for elderly people in southern Brazil has come up with a creative way to bring some love to its residents amid the coronavirus pandemic, by creating a “hug tunnel” that allows relatives to safely embrace them. The idea emerged last month, shortly after Mother’s Day, when staff at the Três Figueiras facility in the state of Rio Grande do Sul noticed some residents were feeling down. “We noticed that our senior residents were feeling sad,” Luciana Brito, one of the owners of the facility, told CNN. “We thought they would be much happier if we found a way for them to hug their relatives.”

 A son hugs his father at  Três Figueiras via the "hug tunnel," which staff developed to enable loved ones to embrace.

In the Beginning…. It is not surprising that we have an inborn need for touch and belonging. God Himself instituted this within us when He created us:
Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

This is the picture of an intimate creation, not a mechanical engineered slurry of atoms that instantaneously formed man.

“Social Distancing” Hugs We have gotten to know many of the neighbors during this time of Pandemic. To our delight, there are 2 little girls up the street that love our new puppy….and we have formed a close friendship. Hugs are out of the question. But then one day this appeared at our doorstep, with a gift bag:

“Sending Hugs your Way”
“In a world full of darkness we could use more light, a little more love and a lot less fright.
So let’s take it day by day. God will surely help us through. And in the meantime, here’s some socially distant ‘hugs” just for you.”

And in the gift bag? A package of Hershey Hugs, of course. It was a “Social Distance Hug” and it made my heart melt.

The Velveteen Rabbit “What is Real?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.
“Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse, “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “Or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, but the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because when you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

At long last After a very long wait, we were finally able to see our Granddaughter. The time of quarantine was over. We anxiously awaited their arrival. When their car pulled up? She nearly burst from her seat and rushed to throw herself into my arms.
It may have been the best hug ever.

The Last Hug My mother was near the end, and we knew the time was near: about 6 weeks. I remember saying goodbye, and she was standing in her walker. I gave her the kind of hug where you don’t let go. You wait for them to release the hug first. One of my hands was on her head as I felt her soft, grey hair. One hand was on her waist. I drew her near and held her close. I felt her warmth. I caught her scent. I didn’t want to let go. I wanted this hug to last forever. This hug would have to last until the next time in glory.

Until then….. Oh how we long for COVID to be over! We long for the day of full healing and restoration. Perhaps our hugs will be nestling a fresh newborn. Or it will be the soft aged skin of the elderly. When we can hug then?
Let’s make sure our hugs are long and lasting and firm. Let’s make the hug last a little longer and a little more closely. Let’s be the last one to let go.

Of Masks and Men


This is the season of Covid. If you haven’t been able to buy a mask, no problem. Home shops are popping up all over, with a variety of custom made masks. Churches have “Sew-ins” to provide masks. Personally, a neighbor made us two. And we were so grateful because we didn’t have any until that point.

Serve and Protect

What is it for? It is to serve us well. It is to protect ourselves as well as others and it plays a vital role. A mask made of an old sock, or an old sweater, or even a scarf works better than nothing.

Something’s Lost but Something’s Gained

Certainly the use of masks has been pivotal in this Pandemic. And for those who work as essential workers and in public health they are a necessity. But have we lost something as well?


55% of communication is visual. Traditional masks block faces and prevent our ability to see facial expressions and emotions, catch visual cues, and communicate.
The first time I became aware of this dynamic I was at a store with my mask on. My glasses were steaming up, as I’ve heard is a common occurrence. And then I saw her: was it my friend Alice? Of course, we were standing 6 ft. apart, so I wasn’t sure it was her. We both wore glasses, mine getting foggier by the moment. Looking through the haze of the mask I was keenly aware of the lack of interaction—the lack of touch—the connection. No eye contact. It was almost as if there was a shame within us.

When I got back to my van I wanted to cry. This Pandemic had eroded a human connection that we all felt, and all needed.

A Human Connection

Genesis 4:6
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?”

Which brings me to the point of the Mask.
So much of our human interaction is through our facial recognition, our eyes and our speech. As we are getting older, the need for hearing aids is looming in the distance.

For those who are hearing impaired, this dynamic is everyday.
Facial coverings muffle sounds. And there is no lip reading. Perhaps I can hear you, but can I understand you?
It is so tempting to raise my mask to clarify what I’m trying to say.
And I’ve noticed that as soon as I am out of the store, I rip the mask off.
Hearing impaired individuals do not have this luxury.
We recently had a relative admitted to the hospital for a procedure; this person is deaf and can only relate through signing and lip reading. Imagine the difficulty of his situation: unable to see the care giver’s lips move. Unable to hear. And unable to have a care giver with them to interpret.
The world is a tough place for those with disabilities. The Pandemic has made this abundantly clear.

Proverbs 27:19
As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

Masks and Other Masks

This Pandemic has taken so much from us. Many are in isolation, unable to see friends and family. They see care givers with masks on. In some cases, robed up with protective gear from head to foot. It is like a horror movie come to life.
And for those dear ill ones, is there no succor?

The Clear Center

And so there is the mask with the clear center. In this way, we can see the mouth and lip read to a certain degree. It is the beginning of effective connection and communication. Companies are now producing these masks in response to the hearing impaired. And there are numerous youtube tutorials on how to make your own.

The Face Copy Mask

In rough first tries, the care taker has made a copy of their face and taped it to the front of the Personal Protective Equipment. When they are caring for the ill patient, the patient can see who is “behind” the mask. Now, companies, are creating these masks:
“We make respiratory masks that look like your face. While our N95 TrueDepth compatible masks are still in production, our first product to market will be a fabric mask that resembles you, making it easier to recognize you during a viral pandemic.”

Of course, if the picture of the face is immovable? And the person is speaking? It seems this would be a surreal dynamic.

Funny Masks One clip on Youtube had a woman with a mask that seemed to be a simple smile. But when she pulled the top and bottom, it revealed a toothy grin. She took immense pride in the mask. You couldn’t help but laugh: her joy was full. You could see the sparkle in her eyes, and we knew she was laughing behind the mask. Despite the mask, her humanity came through.

Despite a Mask, Humanity comes Through

A New Normal

We are nearing the opening of many of our states. Face masks are still required. We long for the day when we can come and go freely without restrictions, without fear. We do not know when that will be. But if nothing else, this has taught us the limitations we have with masks, and the limitations of the hearing impaired community.

And we know that God, in His great mercy, turns His face upon us unclothed, unfettered, and full of peace.

Numbers 6:24-2624 “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’

1 Cor 13:12
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And to be fully known? Isn’t this the desire of our hearts?

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. to be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Timothy Keller

Special Needs and COVID

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Special Needs and COVID

The Pandemic of the past 3 months have been challenging for all of us. Restlessness, boredom, fear and anxiety abound. Haircuts and coloring are needed by many. But a special group—those children with Special Needs, goes beyond this scope.


We thrive on routine and predicability. The Special Needs child is no different. The safe and expected environment helps them feel secure and in control. And the past 3 months have been so out of control. The changes to their routine has been fearful and confusing for them and may lead to behavioral changes. And these are things they may have a hard time articulating.


Most of these children have been in structured schools that help them. With schools closed, they may have a limited understanding of why they cannot attend. Parents of these children are trying to manage these dynamics without the typical structure to their child’s day. There is loss, grief, and isolation. Quarantine has not been easy.

I have two dear friends I’d like to introduce to you. Perhaps this will give you a window into their world:


You wanted to know what being quarantined with a child who has special needs is like. In one word – HARD!! And that is not just from me, but from ALL my friends who have kids with special needs. All the kids are anxious and need calming. All the kids need almost constant attention. All the kids are confused and lonely. Parents who work are having a difficult time trying to do their jobs and keep these kids occupied. If you walk around neighborhoods you see typical kids outside playing with each other. Luke and others don’t have friends to play with. The parents are the friends. There is lots of grieving going on.

It is hard because of the limited understanding of these kids. Luke knows there is a VIRUS out there, that means people are sick. So why does school have to end? People are sick all the time. Why is this different? He is scared and anxious that he will get “THE VIRUS”. I am constantly assuring him that he will be ok. The only way to ensure that is to keep him home.

Luke is used to following a schedule. Everything is different now. I quickly came up with a daily schedule for him to follow and we stick to it. No deviations. Ever. It keeps him calm, which is one of my main goals.

It’s hard to have them home because they are hard to handle. Luke has more frequent tantrums, can change moods on a dime. Some of the kids need constant action and activity, some are loud and screamers, some make constant noise, some throw things.

“Home becomes a place of chaos for all instead of a pleasant type of quarantine.”

The other thing about this “quarantine” is that it is more of the same for parents of kids with special needs. We are already isolated from many activities in the community so this is not exactly new, but much, much worse. It is a constant grieving for losses that are immediate (no school means no break from Luke), Special Olympics was cancelled (lots of crying over that), to future anxieties – Extended School Year might be cancelled, which means no break from Luke ALL SUMMER). That is a very bleak outlook for parents like me. It is exhausting and you can’t just call a babysitter to help.

That is the HARD part but there are blessing. I have gotten to know Luke better than I did. I know now how he learns and why he doesn’t learn. I am teaching him to tie his shoes. We go on walks every day. He notices every blooming tree. He points things out that I would miss. He laughs with his dad and is delighted to be with dad all day. He is also forgiving and kind and fun to be with. He makes me feel beautiful because he tells me I am beautiful. Any husband could take lessons from Luke. He enjoys the smallest things. We Facetime his friends and they just delight in looking at each other. It is so sweet!!!

One things many parents have said is that it is like being locked in with a 12 or 13 or 14 year old toddler!!! That says it all.


I think the best way to describe the impact of the pandemic is to give you a little background on Jesse and then tell you some key things that have happened since our lives were suddenly and abruptly changed.

Jesse’s diagnoses of Pitt Hopkins has many issues to it. However one of the biggest for us, and the reason we fought to move him to Camphill School, is his breathing issues. He will hyperventilate and have apnea episode that are brought on by being disoriented, anxious and out of routine. So you can imagine the concern we had with the closing of the schools and how that will impact Jesse.

A little more history before I go much further. When Jesse was in school in our district he was having close to 500 apnea episodes a month at school. In the 2 years he has been at Camphill he has had almost no apnea episodes. His routine and expectations are very clear and familiar so his anxiety is down, he is not disoriented and is thriving there.

So the first day, a Friday, of the schools closing, Jesse had a tough time understanding what was happening. Why his routine was not happening and was very disoriented. He had a number of apnea episodes and was clearly very anxious. So throughout that day I gathered as much material of educational and chores we had around and made a visual schedule for him so he would know what his day would look like and what the expectations were for the day. This helped a lot for the next two weeks as Camphill, a total hands on life skills school with very little technology in the classrooms, adjusted. As they started planning Zoom meetings and such, I just adjusted the schedule.

Jesse has actually done pretty well by keeping him on an expected schedule and he is making gains on his IEP goals and everything. A couple things are still difficult. He has had more aggressive behaviors since the lock down. The cause and length is not as important as the fact that it has increased a little.

The other issue that is hard is he continues to ask to go to places or see family and friends. He doesn’t understand why and asks for the same things almost everyday. Go to the mall, soccer baseball, pool, church. We continue to remind him that none of them are open right now. He wants to go see grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, class mates. Zoom is a quick glimpse of them, but not enough for him.

Zoom classes and meetings are not productive for him either. He will recognize who is there but won’t interact like he would if he was in person with them.

I have enjoyed working with Jesse during this time and we have bonded even more than before. However he NEEDS to get back to school cause they can provide things I can’t. I can teach him the academics, occupational therapy, speech by following the direction of the teacher and therapists. I cannot teach him social skills and social interaction with his peers. It is just not the same doing those skills with your dad and siblings or on Zoom.


This is such a hard time for these dear families. If you are feeling restless and bored? Peek into their lives:

  • Isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Loss
  • Fear
  • Schedules
  • Routine
  • Expectations

These families juggle the Pandemic as we do, with Special Needs tossed in. For Jesse, wearing a mask brings on episodes of apnea. This is even more restrictive and isolating.

Where does this leave us?
There are no easy answers, but there is an abundance of compassion and mercy. 

Abundant Honor Ministries

This is a ministry that works with those with disabilities. They take their name from
1 Corinthians 12:23 “those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor.”

God takes the things we think are broken or weak and builds his Kingdom with them.

1 Cor 1:27
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Perhaps in this time of Pandemic, the “least of these” and this ministry may teach us much in how to honor and value persons.

An Interview Concerning COVID

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Pastor Douglas Dwyer, Addisville Church asked me to do a Q&A session around the Pandemic of COVID-19. We sought to address the following:

How disruptive is the experience?

Is there something wrong with feeling anxious?

What are some side effects or symptoms of anxiety, such as frustration, feeling of being overwhelmed, short fuse, etc.

What are some self-care suggestions that people can do?

How do we deal with isolation?

How do we help our children?

The video was posted on Youtube, and shared with several churches. I have posted much of this content in blogs, but the video is here if you would like to view it.


Cynthia L. Eppley, MA


Right after “Social Distancing”, “Zoom Meetings” may be the new words for 2020. School’s out. Work is out. Church is out. But wait….We can always zoom a meeting! (Or whatever platform you prefer.)

While we have to “Shelter in place,” it seems like Zoom has come to our rescue. A way to connect with others! A way to engage with friends and family. But after nearly 3 months of this, the verdict is in. And it is not favorable.

Dress for Success

When you are in a zoom meeting, you are only visible from mid chest up. Generally. There are, of course, people who will try stretch the limits of acceptability and modesty in this. For instance, one on line video had 4 coworkers in a meeting. But one young man forgot that his camera was on….and proceeded to get up, clad in a shirt and his underwear. From there he proceeded to the refrigerator, scratching his back side the whole way. The others were screaming to him, “Your camera is on! Turn it off!” But to no avail. He had silenced the computer. 

Teachers know the struggle. Note this: 

“These times are Definitely strange. After a few weeks, my students are trying to outdo one another in strangeness on-line. I’ve seen odd PJ’s—like Halloween costumes—I’ve met younger siblings, pets, and discovered odd breakfast habits. Unfortunately, I’ve also realized that many of them expect a pass because of the pandemic. So, the cream rises to the top as usual, but there is an even smaller set of students within the ‘B’ range. Nevertheless, I am trying to enjoy it.”


It seems that Zoom meetings are a connection to others, but it is also exhausting. I enjoy seeing my friends and family. But it feels different. Why?

Human Connection

I recently made a video concerning the Pandemic, at the request of my good friend, Doug Dwyer, Addisville Church. He had suggested we discuss the many issues around it. However, in watching it again, I am very aware of where I am looking…or not looking! While I am looking at him during the interview, it seems like my gaze is about 3-4 inches lower. 

Eye Contact

Eye contact is crucial to human connection. Perhaps Zoom meets the minimum requirement for connection, but fails in the area of eye contact. I end up not quite knowing where I am looking. If I look to the speaker, I feel more genuine in a conversation. But the reality is that I am not really looking into their eyes at all. It is as if there is an invisible bulls eye just South of where I am looking. It is off-putting and uncomfortable. Where do I look? How do I connect?

Who is on First?

Depending on the size of the meeting, you may be looking at everyone at the same time. Consider this: in a “live” meeting, you may turn to the speaker and watch them, engaging in eye contact. It seems to be a meeting with that one person. And there is also the quick look away, rather than a sustained interrogation. But in a zoom meeting? Now you have innumerable sets of eyes looking in. At you. Where do you look?

Most conversations are marked by body language and stimuli. But not so with Zoom. We are so busy trying to take it all in, that we don’t get the full message at all.

Zoom Fatigue

Looking at all those eyes and faces brings on a great deal of fatigue. The program is cued by the next person talking. Consider this: in a meeting, there may be 15 people talking over each other. The loudest and brashest speaker gets the floor. Now take Zoom: again, the loudest speaker gets on camera. But there is no nuance in hearing other voices or opinions. It is drowned out by the ONE person who gets the floor. This is a mental strain that does not take place in live meetings.

Live meetings give us time and space to sit back and relax and listen. To wait for the next speaker. And to take in body language, facial expressions and reactions. But in Zoom, there is a constant stare into the other’s faces. There is not the usual give and take of conversation that makes people interactions so…. so human.

Some families have taken to “Family Zoom Meetings.” These are Pandemic developments, for the entire family never met before online. It seems strange and awkward, perhaps a bit forced.

Several of my friends are teachers. Because school is out, they are sending out assignments through the internet. And they connect with their students through Zoom or other platforms. But in the school setting, their teaching happened before a classroom of say, 28 students. This is not a possibility in COVID times. They may be able to meet in small groups of 3-4 students. This results in teachers working double the hours. They long to see their students in real time. The students are tired of it all. Everyone wants to go back to reality.

Another friend spends most of the morning in meetings. By the time she is finished, she is exhausted and her eyes hurt. And she wonders if she has accomplished her goal.

Justin, a health care professional had this to say: “I hate Zoom. I’d so much rather meet in person. Reactions are critical in interactions; Zoom has a delay. And there is the issue of people “talking over” one another. And the “Zoom freeze.” I’m so ready for it to be done.”


When the time comes to say goodbye, we all fumble to get to the red button, of “Off.” Now, where was that button? We are all gaily wishing the others well, while we awkwardly fumble to close off the conversation. It brings it full circle: We have connected, but the reality hurts. This is not real interaction that sustains and enriches us. It may be good for the moment. But it does not fulfill us as we long for human influence.

Good News

And perhaps this is the good news. That although Zoom has brought us to the minimum requirements of our work or meetings with others, it has also revealed the deeper need that we all know. 

Perhaps, at the end of the day, we seek the spark of the Infinite God. God is mindful of mankind, and He cares for us. We are made a little lower than the angels. We are crowned with glory and honor. (Ps 8)

Because we are made in the image of God, we see this within the other. 

Technology and Zoom may be a method to connect, but they are second best.

Social Distancing and Mental Health

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Social distancing and Mental health

Social distancing has taken its toll on us in many ways. I’ve already written on this in my blogs on Loss and Grief.Loss in a Pandemic,Social Distancing,Grief 101Children Anxiety and Corona
But there is so much more to this topic.


There is a real fear of the economic impact on people. Nationally, and even internationally, businesses are scrambling to stay afloat. The enormous impact on these people is staggering. In one case in TX, Shelley Luther opened up her beauty salon and was arrested. Her reasoning? ”I have to feed my family.”
This is by no means a political statement. Certainly we can understand and empathize with her concerns.


As time goes on, the numbers go up. But this can feed the anxiety, wondering if I may be the next one. Did I wash my hands enough? Did I wipe down the groceries? Did I pick up an item that someone else touched? How can I know for sure? How can I be certain?

Time Marches On

While many areas are opening up, or loosening guidelines and restrictions, some are still firmly in place. We live in Montgomery County, PA—the “hotspot” of PA. We watch as other counties are going from red to yellow. And we continue to wait. We will probably be the last county to open up, excluding Philadelphia.

And we already canceled a long awaited trip to Europe in August. It will be rescheduled in 2022. But who knows what our plans will be at that point?
The uncertainty of all of this weighs on us. This adds to the stress that we all feel.


We may easily underestimate the connections we have in our social network. My husband has struck up a friendship at our local WaWa. The clerk is friendly and congenial; my husband likes the coffee as well as the fellowship.

We have lost the connection of our colleagues. Fortunately, we do see our neighbors. Internationally, the ability to go out of our homes has been restricted. In Spain, our daughter and family had specific days and hours that they could be outside.
We might look to Facetime, or Zoom or other platforms to connect with other people. But these “virtual” connections may not be enough. It might not be the support we need.
There is a physical aspect of connection that cannot be underestimated.

Lack of connection can result in loneliness, and may result in depression, increased suicide risk, stress, anxiety and alcohol use. In some cases, there may be increased domestic violence, and lack of nutrition.


Consider how this impacts children:

“To understand how the virus may affect children during these formative years, Schwehm said we might be able to look at the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks for answers.
“We’ve seen the effects something like 9/11 had on children, with increased rates of behavioral problems and depression in children in New York City,” he said. “This might be especially true for children whose parents are serving as essential workers: medical staff, grocery store workers.”

Nursing Homes

I have a friend who has an aunt in a nursing home. Her observations:
“She will be 104 June 3rd if she makes it. She is totally with it mentally and lives for her visits from family. Between all of us she usually has a steady stream of visitors – her daughter, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. She is literally dieing of loneliness. Not eating, lost 15 lbs. It is breaking my heart.”

And another:

“This hits home with me!  My momma died from failure to thrive.  I am not bitter about it but I am just saying what is true!  I am relieved every day that she is home with Jesus.  I know she knows how much we all loved her and when she got to heaven she truly knew then what horrible thing happened to her down here on earth.  Someday there will be no more tears and no more sadness.  There will be no more evil.  But until that day I just press on.

“It’s like torture for the families. If covid doesn’t kill them, they’ll die from loneliness. And we have no control of it.”

“Almost Teens”

Brad Hunstable, Aledo TX, released a video describing the death of his 12 yr old son Hayden Bradley Hunstable, 3 days before his 13th birthday. Hayden took his own life on April 17, 2020. Hunstable describes his son’s death as being caused by COVID, but not in the usual way. The social isolation his son felt was too much for him.

We are longing for that connection, aren’t we? I saw a video of a family in Canada that visited Grandmom with sheets of plastic, hung on the clothesline. They created arms. Then invited Grandmom in for a full hug, plastic and all between them. Others wore dinosaur costumes. Perhaps it was second best? But it worked.

We are all looking for that human connection. More in another blog.

Flowers and Their Legacy

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Flowers and Their Legacy

“The earth laughs in flowers.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Mom I come by my gardening skills honestly: my mother was a gardener. She tended faithfully to her gardens and I must have inherited her love of beauty and the wonder of it all. Although she is gone now, I brought many of her iris and peonies with me before the house was sold. My favorite iris is a yellow one that is as big as my fist. It must be staked up as it becomes top heavy. I thinned it out yesterday and left some up on the corner. A lady stopped by: “Can I have these? Really? I got some last year and it flowered this spring! It is just beautiful! Thank you so much!” The bright pink and white peonies are in their glory right now. Their fragrance is intoxicating. But they are losing their petals, and soon the earth below will be sprinkled with a carpet of vibrant color. It reminds me of the hymn:

“Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea; Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.”

It is as if they lifted their arms in praise of their Creator, and then spent, cast their petals down at their feet.

Debbi So many of my friends have been gardeners as well! Debbi Wellman, in Syracuse NY, was an avid gardener. She gave me catmint, Solomon’s Seal and Batchelor Button. Debbi is gone now, but I look at the plumes of purple catmint and think of her.

Keith and Audrey My brother, Keith and wife Audrey gave us one huge hosta. That one hosta grows quickly and has been divided so many times. When I thin it out, about every other year, I dig deep into the ground, and place the crowns up at the corner. People know that I do this, and every year, they stop by to grab a few. “These are free? Really?” Last year I had someone stop: “I grabbed some of these a few years ago and planted them in my back patio. They come up every year and are just beautiful!” I like to think that hosta is throughout Ambler in a living legacy of my brother.

Glenda My friend, Glenda, used to live in Wisconsin. Apparently, hosta reigns supreme there. I brought back several different types, as well as rhubarb.Rhubarb takes awhile to mature, but once it does, it is wonderful. Added to sweet strawberries, it gets folded into a buttery pie crust or a crisp. When I post it on Facebook, it is generally the favorite post of the year. I’m surprised I don’t have people camped out on my back porch waiting for a piece. Glenda also gave me my favorite perennial: my Bottle Tree! Hardy, resisting even the coldest winters. Needs no watering, and reflects the light of the setting sun in magical ways.

Paula My neighbor, Paula, is also an avid gardener. We exchange plants and frequent Rice’s Market together for hanging baskets. It seems that we can’t remember the “proper” name for plants. No matter. Beginning to talk about a particular item: “You know, the one that has the speckled leaves and the pink flower that’s about 4 inches high? That one!” We laugh at ourselves and share gardening delight. Snakes are a joint dread, especially in her compost pile. After a hard day of work, you may find us under her towering oak tree drinking a tall ice tea. That tree was planted by her husband, Joseph over 30 years ago, so that she would have shade. He is gone, but his legacy continues on.

Mearl Horner My brother-in-law, Mearl Horner, died this past April. He had a spiky purple plant that reached for the heavens: Liatris. He loved sharing his plants with me; I look forward to the blooms that will come in June.

The Green Cathedral We have created the entire backyard into a walking garden. I like to think of it as my “Green Cathedral”. A flagstone path welcomes visitors, and the tall swaying spruce trees shield it from the sun. It is a cool place of rest even on hot summer days. My Junior Choir sang “Green Cathedral” in church when I was a Pre-teen. I still remember the haunting melody and poignant lyrics so many years later:

I know a green cathedral, a shadowed forest shrine,
Where leaves in love join hands above and arch your prayer and mine; Within its cool depths sacred, the priestly cedar sighs,
And the fir and pine lift arms divine unto the pure blue skies

In my dear green cathedral there is a flowered seat,
And choir loft in branched croft, where songs of bird hymns sweet; And I like to dream at evening, when the stars its arches light,
That my Lord and God treads its hallowed sod,
In the cool calm peace of night.

So Why do I Love my Flowers?

I love community and people. And if I am out in my garden, people often stop by and tell me how they love the gardens. Bob graciously gives me most of the credit.
It is a way to connect with people, meet them, and begin friendships. Cheryl walked down my path last Spring, and we have been fast friends ever since.

The garden is a place of sacred remembrances.The flowers bridge the beauty of today with the precious lives that have gone before. Just today someone reminisced: “I remember as a young girl marching in the Memorial Day parade. I carried pink and white peonies and the purple catmint.”

And I delight in their praise. But is the praise for me? No the praise is for the glory of these miracles. As I look over the plethora of colors and textures? I see the glory of God displayed.

Luke 12:27
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

I remember the gifts from friends that have gone on before and are with Jesus. The legacy they have left behind brings me such pleasure and hope.

Isaiah 40:8
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.

Isaiah 61:10
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.

Words of praise and beauty spring from within me. “You are just gorgeous today! Keep growing! And look at you! I didn’t know you were there!” I reach out to hold the bloom in my hand, wet with morning dew, sparkling in the new morning misty light. Stretching toward the sun, the bloom reaches for the Giver of life. Even creation points to the Creator, and the giver of all good gifts.

“God’s in His heaven, alls right with the world’, whispered Anne softly.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Social Distancing

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Social Distancing

Many people are tired of COVID and social distancing. Social distancing may be the new word for 2020, but everyone knows what it means. The implications of separation are taking a toll on us.Take a quick look on Instagram or Facebook and you’ll see people doing crazy things to pass the time. Half of the time we don’t know what day it is. Or whether or not we washed our face or brushed our teeth.

What is Happening?

I’m noticing people losing it. At 30 days of isolation, people were reacting strongly. I’m not even sure what day we’re up to now: 60? 70?
Why is this so hard?

We Take so much for Granted

Perhaps we take for granted the simple run to WaWa or Starbucks. Or stopping for the paper. Many are working from home and so they miss the camaraderie of work. Or after work, we may go out for dinner and drinks with friends.
This casual social easiness is not available to us now.

Our “connectedness” with others has been truncated.
Easter dinner? Forget it.
Mother’s Day? Not happening.
But the fact is that some people are still getting together. They may very well be 6 ft. apart. While others decide to stay home altogether.

I talked to one neighbor who noticed this discrepancy and it weighed on her heavily:

“I’m just having a bad day. I really wanted to be with my family. They are all together, but we can’t be. Our county has too many cases.”

It was a bitter pill to swallow.

We just passed Memorial Day and I could hear families celebrating together. While I was happy for them, I was a bit wistful. Were they wearing masks? Were they 6 ft. apart? Were hugs allowed? Hearing the laughter of children intensified my own longing to see family.Memorial Day 2020

And it is all taking a toll on our mental health.
Our loss in this Pandemic can lead into sorrow, despair, isolation, loneliness and depression. Loss in a Pandemic,Grief 101,Grief 102, How do we Get Through Quarantine?

Mental Health

Being out and in a regular schedule is part of good mental health. But with these systems cut out from under us, we become insecure. And trying to recognize it and identify it? Equally hard.
Several friends of mine are therapists and their schedules are maxed out with clients. And this is all through teleconferencing.

Students miss the companionship of their peers, and the Seniors? There will be another blog about their predicament.Senior Class 2020
If we can connect though media—why are we all losing it?

All of us are vulnerable to the solitude.

Check in Reality

I had a melt down on May 1. It was just a hard day, and so I reached out to my Facebook community to see how others were faring. This is not a scientific study, but it may show us a slice of humanity:

From a nurse: “I had an awful week last week. I was at work, dressed in my PPE and a mother accused me of contaminating her son. That was horrible for me. It took me several days to process that and let it go.”

This was so very sad for my friend. She is a dedicated nurse, and to have her motives and actions questioned were almost too much. (I must note: several of my friends on Facebook came to her defense thanking her for her work. They do not know each other; but they knew she needed support and encouragement.)

“Just over all kind of a not so great week. Very little motivation. Feel lazy and tired. I go through ups and downs throughout the week. The weather does make a difference. I’ve found myself talking to God out loud, here at home, when my mind starts to take me down a negative path. He has been helpful. Crying has also been a good release.”

“Today was good/bad. good – weather was nice and I went on a bike ride and confirmed kayak adventure tomorrow or Sunday. Bad in that even though our shut down is supposed to end near the end of May, most annual events in July have already been cancelled as well as many other local annual events that people look forward to. Now I am second guessing our road trip the end of May.”

“I had had about enough today and cancelled my appts for the day. I knew I wasn’t going to be helpful to anyone if I didn’t do so.”

“I feel like this week has been the hardest for me mentally. Cannot really pinpoint anything in particular…just really struggled.”

“Feeling better today. Taking it one day at a time. Not great, feeling depressed, irritated and unmotivated.”

“I’ve done okay so far. But today I noticed a malaise, a discontent, an uneasiness. And I don’t know how to shake it.”

And this note from Harvest USA nails it:
“Let’s consider the challenge of loneliness. Many people feel lonely whether or not they are physically distanced from others. For a lot of us, the challenge of this time is not so much being away from many people but being forced to relate more intensely to just a few people in our own households! Nevertheless, many are aware of a deep and enduring loneliness, a dull heartache arising from a sense of isolation, of not being affirmed, not being valued, not being desired, or not being known by anyone.”

When someone reaches out and says, “Im not OK. I need help.”
Don’t try to fix them, or tell them they’re overreacting.
Don’t insinuate they’ve lost their faith, or judge the rawness of their emotions.
And for the love, don’t run off to tell everyone else, even under the guise of asking for prayers. When someone reaches out for help the only thing you should say is, I’m listening. (

Can we hear ourselves reflected in these posts? Can we hear the uneasiness, the longing to hug our children or grandchildren? The isolation and the loneliness?

Consider the song Blessings by Laura Story:

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights Are your mercies in disguise  (

Perhaps, all of the sorrow, loss, disappointment, and longing really is proof that there is something more, and Heaven is our home.

The fact that our hearts yearn for something earth can’t supply is proof that heaven must be our home. C.S.Lewis

Our hearts are restless. We long for, and yearn for that deeper connection. And this Pandemic has brought this to the surface.

Perhaps we can look to God and His creation to see the very foundation.

Genesis 1:26: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”
From the beginning of Scripture we see God in relationship with Himself. And then we observe:

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Could our very loneliness and solitude be a reflection of this Heavenly reality? God is in relationship with Himself. We are a reflection of Him. We are created in His image. And at the very foundation of who we are, we long for relationship. We long for Him.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. C.S.Lewis

Memorial Day 2020

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA 05/28/2022

Memorial Day 2020

This weekend is Memorial Day. It is considered the start of summer, and if you live anywhere near the Jersey Shore, or Delaware Shore, for that matter, it is a big event.
This is the opening start on the economy for small business owners.
Considering the decimation of COVID from an economic standpoint, this is no small concern.

This is not a political statement for “Opening up” the economy, or a plea for Distancing. It is an observation.

“Average town USA”

I grew up in Salem, NJ. This town was a beautiful, charming place to grow up. Tree lined streets, neighbors who knew you and looked out for you. We stayed out all day to play, and came home when the street lights came on. We roamed the neighborhoods freely with our friends.

In the summer of 1964 TV news anchor David Brinkley decided to profile an average American small city, one that adhered almost identically to the national averages in every way. Out popped Salem, N.J. So Brinkley and his pollsters descended on our county seat to spotlight the tiny town during election time.

I did not know the background to elections; I was 10.

Memorial Day Past

The holiday used to be heralded with parades of bands, fire engines and veterans proudly marching. I remember my heart swelling with pride as they tromped by. In my younger days it was a mystery and little understood. Respect was a kernel that was growing in my young heart. And last but not least, bicycles. Kids would decorate their bikes with streamers and join the parade.

The fire engines were graced with large flower memorials of past veterans. My mother continued to place flowers there in memory of my Dad, Sergeant Joseph G. Lippincott, Sr. Later, the flowers were taken to the center of town to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park Bandshell. The many arrangements were a testimony to the sacrifices of the men and women of Salem County. It was a place of silence, reflection and respect.

My Dad and Mom would take us to the cemetery to plant geraniums by the graves of our forefathers. They were always red, and always from the same greenhouse. We carefully dug up previous plantings, and loosened the ground for the newcomer. Tamping the ground down gently and giving it a generous watering. Standing up, observing the gravestone dates and remembering those who had gone before us. Perhaps with a short story or warm memory. Always with a wistful spirit. There were those taken as children, and those gone far too soon. We were taught to not walk on the ground in front of the headstone as that is where the coffin was laid. It was a matter of respect.

Veterans had a bronze plaque placed in front of their gravesite. There, a small American flag would be posted. As we stood to look across at the fields, and a bit away, the marsh, we could see them fluttering in the breeze. I remember this as being sunny, warm, and not sad. Later, there would be a ceremony at Salem County Veterans Cemetery.

In the afternoon, we made a dash for our Summer home, Sand Burr Lodge, or “The Cottage.” Grilling would waft the aroma of hot dogs and hamburgers into the breeze. Mom always made a boatload of potato salad. What picnic would be complete without it? It had plenty of celery seed. My brother, Gill, would affectionately tease her and say, “Do you have enough floor sweepings in there, Mom?” Friends would join us, and there would be laughter and warm fellowship. It felt like a safe place. If the weather was warm, and even if it wasn’t, we would beg our parents to let us jump into the Delaware River. It would still be chilly in the Spring. But for kids? I don’t remember the cold; I remember the thrill of the first summer swim. And family and friends.

Memorial Day Present

This year will be so very different. 56 years has changed Salem, NJ: Averagetown, USA.
So much has changed in all of our towns. So much has changed in our own country and counties. So much has changed in each of our lives; in me. Safe places of the past may not feel so safe now.

One thing remains the same: the respect and gratitude that was instilled in me in an early age has grown and matured. The service of our Doctors and nurses, our health care workers, our food service people, our delivery services? Maintenance crews, disinfectant services in hospitals, nursing home staff, Service men and women. Our respect and honor for those who have served is now broadened.

There will be no parades this year. Instead, there will be Social Distancing. The news has been full of speculation of beaches opening, and with what precautions. If you go to the Jersey shore, make sure you have 6 ft. between you and your neighbor. Strong opinions abound: to open the shore means economic salvation for small businesses. To open means increased risk for vulnerable populations.

And honestly, even if it is not a shore issue? Wherever you live, even internationally, these questions arise:

How do we keep safe? How do we diminish the risk? How do we move forward from COVID?


There are no easy answers to these pressing concerns. I will leave that to political pundits, doctors, and lawyers to debate. It is beyond the scope of this blog to address it all.
But I do know that these questions reside in the heart of every man, woman, and child. The questions remain, and the answers remain the same.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

“O God, our Help in Ages Past, Our Hope for years to Come. Our shelter from the stormy blast And our eternal home. Under the shadow of Thy throne Thy saints have dwelt secure; Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure.”

Senior Class 2020

Cynthia L. Eppley, MA

Senior Class 2020

Spring 2020

What a season it has been for our students.
My niece and nephew have braces that were to come off, after years of anticipation. Only to have that time extended because of COVID-19. To them it seems like an eternity.

Another nephew was to take his driver’s test. Who hasn’t looked forward to that momentous day? His test has been postponed due to COVID-19. The wait is excruciating.

And another niece in college came home at Spring break: only to stay home. Classes began online. Her summer work plans have changed. And she doesn’t know if her classes will resume on campus in the Fall.


This is the time that the Seniors look for—the culmination of their schooling and hard work.

For many, there will be Awards ceremonies with accolades from their coaches and team mates. Some have achieved records at their schools or made a lifetime record. Others have reached honors in Debate Team, Orchestra, or Drama. Some have worked hard on travel teams starting in elementary school. They were looking to cap it off with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. But then came COVID-19.
Few Seniors of 2020 will have the Prom they expected, the Yearbook signings, or hugs during the last home room. They’ve watched upper classmates go through this process and they were poised at the edge of their future, grasping for the diploma.
How are they to bring finality and closure to such a moment in their lives?
Many schools are working together for parades, complete with police escorts and fire engines. Some have lined the school entrance with pictures of each Senior. Balloons flutter by their front doors.


Disappointment is there. But we can help them by listening well, and recognizing the loss. There are so many losses in this time. Certainly illness and death surrounds us in this time. And some may downplay what is happening to the Senior class of 2020. Theirs may not be a medical loss, but it still deserves our empathy and understanding.

In talking with a few Seniors, I’ve come to appreciate their thoughts on the topic.


First, a young man who was not able to play out his Senior year in Baseball.
When I spoke with him, I asked him what was his greatest loss? Without skipping a beat he responded:

“My last year of baseball.”

In his Junior Year, Mudcat threw a No Hitter. He hit a home run to take the lead in the first round of playoffs. Tri-County conference: Pitcher and Hitter of the week.
All South Jersey and All Tri-County teams.

“We maybe got in 5 practices. I was hoping to achieve more records for the team. That won’t happen now. There will be no awards ceremony.
There will be no prom. Or graduation.
It’s really different without my friends. Before it was every day in school. Now, we can do FaceTime, but it is not the same. I miss my friends.”

“I do see one positive. School has opened up online classes. I have more control over my time. I’m not in a rush. Now, I’m open to online classes even in college. It was a good year except for Coronovirus.”

This young man’s nickname is Mudcat: given to him from Coach Lee Ware. And his coach has had a legacy: he coached his father in 1988. How many coaches can say they’ve trained generations in a family?

But there is more to the story. This year Coach Lee Ware is retiring. It is his 46th year. I talked to him about Mudcat and here were his thoughts:
“This just breaks my heart. These Seniors don’t get to finish. Mudcat? He was my best pitcher in 46 years. He pitched 2 No Hitters. He is a Bull Dog on the Mound. And he is a phenomenal young man.”

And why the nicknames? “I like to give each one a nickname, like an extra identity. I remember every one. His Dad who played in 1988? His name was Dirt.”

32 years later, and the pride this coach feels? For Dirt and Mudcat? This family? It is almost palpable.

We can only imagine where Senior Year would have taken him.

There is disappointment. But there is the bittersweet realization that his records were solid and notable. And he remains positive. And looks forward to online classes.
He will play baseball next year in college.


In these reflections, a young woman gives an “address” to her classmates:

Dear Seniors,
My heart is overflowing for you.
I know this is hard for you. As a fellow senior I’m right there with you.

Maybe you’ve watched siblings & friends walk during their graduation & dreamed of the day when that would be you. Maybe school was an uphill climb & graduation was your ending goal, your trophy. Maybe you dreamed of prom since you were little. Maybe you had plays, dance competitions, championship games, recitals. Maybe you just wanted the last few moments with your high school friends and now all of that is gone. But here’s my message to you today:

It’s OK to be sad. It’s ok to cry and grieve for what is lost. I’ve heard many people say that they shouldn’t be complaining because there are people that have it worse and while this is true, everyone has their struggles. Everyone has their mountains to climb. The fact that someone else has it worse does NOT make your tears less legit! God never tells us not to cry. He doesn’t tell us not to be sad. On the contrary, he says that he comes close to the brokenhearted. So let Him hold you close & give you peace. I’ll tell you one thing God does say, though. God commands us not to fear— a total of 365 times!! This can seem crazy in these times of uncertainty. But this what I want you to hear:

It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to cry, but then look around you. Look at your families. Look at your texts from your friends. Observe the flowers & the sky and listen to the birds singing. Don’t despair & don’t fear but trust the Lord, for He has this in His hands. Lean into him.
Much love,


A Hope and a Future

Both of these graduating Seniors have faced the loss, but now look to the future. They are looking forward to what lies ahead. They understand that there was much lost, but so much more gained.

Oh, but now old friends they’re acting strange And they shake their heads, they say I’ve changed Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day. Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now (

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.”
Henry David Thoreau

“We have no idea what lies ahead or how God will open doors of potentiality when we consciously choose to get out of the ruts we’re in and start moving down new paths about which we can be excited—even passionate.”
Luci Swindoll

“There are far, far better things ahead than those we leave behind.” C.S.Lewis

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29: 11

I think Mudcat and N are going to be fine. They are both on their way to a fabulous hope and a future.

Aimee Byrd

Inside the word. Outside the box.

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The strongest memory is weaker than the palest ink. I write to remember.


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