This interview is one part of a series written by our 2020 CBF Summer Ministry Intern, Emmaline Rogers.
I spoke with Sandra several weeks after interviewing her husband; she’d come up to me at one of the outdoor worship services and said she’d be willing to sit and talk with me. We sat out under the portico in the late morning, before the heat of the day had truly set in.
Living in quarantine is harder than retirement, she told me. “It’s interesting to be with someone 24/7.” For the majority of their married life both she and her husband Joe has full-time jobs, and then had kids waiting for them at home. When their sons moved out and the two of them retired, they were around each other more, but not to the same extent that they have been since the pandemic. “And all of a sudden, you’re just 24/7 that you can’t get out, even when we retired I mean I had my stuff I went and did, he did his stuff, you know. This is. This is hard.”
The two of them have worked out a system to give each other the space they need while still making sure to spend dedicated time together. Sandra goes for a run early in the morning, and “Then we sorta come down and get coffee and say hey! What else do you have to do today? You know, that kind of thing.” For the most of the day, they will each take a floor of the house, in order to give each other some space. Occasionally they will play golf together, which is a chance to safely get out of the house while being a little active. “We love to play golf…most of our interests are just complete opposites…but we do love to play golf together.” They also love visiting with neighbors who pass by their house. “Our neighborhood is just very friendly, lends itself to if you’re out on your porch… Which has been nice because everyone’s so busy it’s usually been just a wave or a ‘hi’ or something like that, but, you know, you really are just standing there talking to ‘em and getting to know ‘em. or they’ll invite you over to have a glass of wine or something you know out on the patio, just where you’re sitting out outside.”
Sandra has appreciated how the pandemic has slowed down the pace of life. “I think you slow down, you listen better. One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalms 46:10, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ So I think this…helps you be still and take your time, and sorta helps you see what’s really important.” The pandemic has also allowed her to realize the importance of all her interpersonal connections. “Realizing, I think, that we all depend on each other. To provide meaning, you know, in our lives. We sorta see how we’re connected through work in different jobs, how they connect and make your life what it is, how you need human contact and relationships.” The loss of being in the same room as their friends has hit Joe especially hard, since he’s had to cut himself off almost entirely. “He misses just the comradarie of people connecting with him, you know, even though you might see them on Zoom, it’s just not the same thing…I just think just the fact that we need each other in order to connect with and how important that is to our life, to help make us whole.” Maintaining relationships hasn’t proven to be difficult for her. “The relationships I’ve had with my friends and family and church really haven’t changed that much as far as what they mean to me…it’s hard to stay connected, but we found ways to do that. As far as relating and being close to them and something like that, really hasn’t changed that much. I feel like I’ve made more of an effort to make sure it stays that way…I hope they don’t change, in the sense that I hope we can get back to more of what we considered normal where we can hug each other or shake hands with each other or feel comfortable going into places where you know there are more people, I think we would all like that. I guess I hope, I hope somehow I keep this feeling of being still and really listening to God and slowing down, I hope I keep that. But, you know, if we get back to what we consider normal, we’ll probably get back to the way we were…”
“I think in the beginning, I personally—I knew it was legit, I knew it was bad, but I didn’t think it was gonna take as long as it’s going to take and the effect it would have on so many people. But after the first weeks and a month passed, then it begins the realization that hey, this is a lot more serious than we first thought…As we’ve moved along here, you know…we’ve learned how to adapt to try to make it work. It’s just still hard. The other day I was just like, ‘I’m so tired of this…’ But you know, every once in a while you just feel that, like ‘ugh, forget this.’” In order to cope with those moments, Sandra tries to keep busy. “I’ll try to have something planned to do everyday. That’s really helpful.” Yet despite her best efforts, some days are decidedly empty. “For some reason Tuesday I didn’t have anything…I just wanted to throw my hands up in the air and say, ‘I’m just going to go do this, I don’t care,’ and the walls seemed to cave in on you. I just didn’t know what to do with myself, and you begin to feel anxious, you know… and it was one of those days I didn’t want to…sit and read…I actually ended up going and walking, just walking around my neighborhood, just getting out, you know, that really seemed to help me.” Later in the interview she added, “Exercising clears my mind. It’s something that I can go do and that I can count on. I can make my mind blank or I can process problems or think about how to deal with something, sometimes I work out my day or what I’m going to do that week…and it makes me feel good after I finish…And then I absolutely think it’s faith…the believing that God is with you, that He’s going to carry you through this…”
Sandra tries to be excessively careful whenever she’s out so that she doesn’t bring the virus home to her husband, who is high-risk. “He worries because you know, we can’t do certain things, and I can’t go do something…” She told me about instance where she chose caution over socialization, in the case of a meeting her book club had a couple months ago. “It’s really a social hour,” she said. “They were doing it outside in an alley way, everybody brought their chair…And I wanted to go, but…at that time, it was the first part of May and he was really nervous. So I didn’t go, you know, because of him. And he worries about stuff like that, that I’m not getting to do stuff that normally I probably could go do. But overall, I tell him it doesn’t bother me…I think it’s one of those things that I don’t feel like this is going to be forever and ever and ever. Down the road, yeah, we are going to travel, we are going to go back to restaurants…I feel like I’m saving money,” she laughed.
They had, however, started to safely interact with some friends. “Last weekend we went to another couple’s house, and two other couples that we do stuff with and travel with were there, and we all kept our distance and we all had separate trays for our food. It was sort of crazy, but it was so much fun to be together…that was a lot of fun. I mean we joked about quarantine and we joked about a lot of stuff but then we talked about, you know, how it’s affecting us and stuff like that.” However, their comfort did not extend to visiting with their sons who live in the Nashville area, even for Father’s Day, which has always been a big tradition in the Livesay family. On a typical year, Joe’s sons will take him golfing then out for a nice steak. “So they didn’t get to do that, because he’s not comfortable yet with that. So they Zoomed, they talked. They both sent him funny shirts. As parents, you don’t love them to really do anything for you or get you anything, but, the best part is spending time with them, so that’s the best gift, is just to be able to go do something with them, and this year they didn’t really get to do that.”
The Livesays are not big on being in the kitchen. More recently, Joe has taken charge in respect to meal creation and they’ve been making more fish dishes, as that has been a recent branching-out in regard to Joe’s palate, but Sandra is still the main cook when it comes to their favorite meals. “I think for Joe, I do what we call steak and biscuits. There used to be a restaurant called Ireland’s. It started in Nashville, and Joes’ dad was CPA for them, and they would do these little tiny steak and biscuits. It’s right over next to Vanderbilt, and it was a big deal, and that was one of the first places he took me to when we started dating, was to Irelands there in Nashville. You went in and you ordered steak and biscuits, the waiter brought you a pitcher of beer and an order of steak and biscuits…so I make that. My boys, I think that’s probably one of their favorite things.”
Sandra has loved the new online format for Sunday worship. “Oh I love church just at home in my pajamas drinking coffee! I love it! I really do! It’s great, you can go when you’re ready and have church, and I really like that…” She does miss teaching Sunday school, though. “I miss the little kids…They’ll tell you what their parents are doing, they’ll say some of the funniest things. I miss that, I miss seeing their little sweet faces and their little hugs, and all of that. So yeah, I do miss that about church.” Sandra has also been missing her old ways to give back to her community. “I like to get out and do and serve. And the hardest thing for me is to sit and pray and be still…so I guess it’s deepened my faith in the sense that I’ve been able to discipline myself a little bit more to sit and listen rather than be out and doing.”
She continued to say, “One of the things I’ve truly truly missed has been, just to tie into that is, I worked with hospus, that’s what I did, so I volunteer in hospus, and I’m not able to go out and sit with patients. I’m not able to feed them, and I’m not able to go to patients’ times and let the caregiver get out and go run errands, right now, I can’t do that. So I miss that kind of thing.” However, she has found a way to continue helping patients and their families. “What we have done where I can’t go to a patient’s home or go out to the hospus house to feed them and everything, we write letters. So just notes, so I’m writing a note to a hospus patient. And I’m glad to be able to do that because I worked in hospus for almost thirty years so I feel like I know how, it’s still difficult, but how to talk to them, how to write, how to try to understand where they are in that. For a lot of people that’s hard…But you know, that’s something I’ve been able to do. So twice a month [ get] so many names [and] I write notes to ‘em.” The impactful part of that for her has been, “Knowing that a note or a card or something like that for the patient, and lots of times more for the caregiver, will touch them and mean something to them. You know, I never understood quite the importance of sending a card…or picking up the phone and calling…until my dad died. And cards—I was so surprised, as far as my grief, how much cards meant. People would write little notes, funny things about my dad—he was a character—and things like that. So it gave me a whole new appreciation that if I write a card, or say we have a death and I send a card, how to write it, what I put in there…and I feel like if it touched me, it will have a similar impact on them. It’s a small thing, it’s a small thing. But it can mean a lot. Or you can get a card from someone that you just didn’t even realize, you know, that they would send a card and they do, and it’s just like, oh, wow.”
It is the little things that have helped Sandra through these past few months. She’s found outlets for interaction and connection in places she’d never had the opportunity to look before; the slowed pace has allowed her to interact more with her neighbors, become more intentional about maintaining connections with friends, and spend a little more time sitting in prayer rather than continuously rushing about. Though she’s pretty sure that once things return to something close to how they were before the pandemic, she and everyone else will resume the hectic, rushed pace of life, she has both appreciated and taken advantage of the calm the pandemic has offered in the midst of its chaos.