This article is re-posted with permission. We thank Gabrielle Elise Jimenez, hospice nurse, end-of-life doula, and conscious dying educator, for sharing her experiences at thehospiceheart.net blog.


How much time do we have? Where did the time go? I wish we could go back in time. Remember that time? Time is on my side… time is not on my side. One more time… I wish I had one more time. Time waits for no one. Time flies. Wasted time. Time well spent. Time is money. Precious time. The trouble is, that we think we have time.

“All we have to decide, is what to do with the time that is given us.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Have you ever sat and thought about all the things we say or have heard, relative to the time we have, the time we’ve lost, how we have spent our time and how much more is left? We do not realize how much time has been wasted, until our time left is limited. And those who are sitting at the bedside of someone whose time is short, is reminded of this in a very big way.

I recently spent some time with a widow who has been trying to clean out her husband’s belongings. Her husband had many interests and left behind a lot of things for her to go through, which in quite honesty has taken its toll. Following in his parent’s footsteps, he worked on clocks and watches and has an entire room filled with parts and tools. This was more of a hobby for him, but one he enjoyed and spent a lot of time on. The room itself is very cool, I have enjoyed my time in there as well.

Our conversation about him and the hundreds of pieces of clock supplies got us talking about time; how we spend it, how we manage it, how quickly is passes, and how precious it is. As I started to write this blog, which was inspired by our conversation, I asked her to put together some of the clock/watch tools and supplies and take a photo for me, which she graciously said she would do. This project became quite therapeutic for her. She said, “it turned my thoughts from feeling like he left me with all this stuff to deal with, to he left me with all this stuff to play with, and I am blessed with the time to explore and heal.”

Time can be our friend when we have the luxury of time. We are able to do things with less rush or urgency and put it off for later, not feeling the need to push to finish the things we have counted on having time for. And then something unexpected happens and time has been taken from us… all that time we counted on and took for granted is now gone. We do not get that back, and I know many of you can appreciate this.

What I hear often is, “I thought we would have more time,” in which I think to myself… don’t we all? In those last few hours, as I witness people at the bedside saying their goodbyes, I watch as they quickly say the years-worth of things they’ve held on to, always thinking they would have time to say them later. I imagine them all thinking, “how did it get to be “too late” so soon?”

There is a quote by Lao Tzu, “To say, ‘I don’t have time’, is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.” Think about that for a moment, allow that to really sink in. If there is someone out there, right now that is wishing to hear things from you, and you do have the chance and you do have the time to say them… imagine the comfort you would bring to their life, removing that feeling of, “they just don’t want to.”

If I could go back in time there are so many people that I wish I could say things to, but that isn’t realistic, and I am not going to beat myself up about that. But I can change things moving forward, and so can you. Say the things now, while you truly do have time. Assume you only have a window of time… take advantage of that window.

Donald McClarren: The Hero Next Door

Bravery and honor are words reserved for the select few who have risked their lives in service of our country. For United States Air Force and Navy veteran Donald McClarren of Boiling Springs these are the words he lived by during his time as a Prisoner of War in North Korea. A humble and soft-spoken man, Donald may dismiss the word hero to describe him, but he is all of this and more to those who know and served with him.

Homeland Hospice recently recognized Donald with a special pin and certificate through the We Honor Veterans program, created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The program works to improve the quality of health care for all veterans. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania. Homeland Chaplain John Good leads the program. (John was previously joined in leading the program by Chaplain Mark P. Harris, M.A., M.Div., Spiritual Counselor at Homeland Hospice and a former hospital corpsman, who passed away in 2021.)

As a young man growing up in Johnstown, Donald wanted to do his part to serve our country. He joined the Air Force in 1954 where he was trained in cryptography and worked as a communications technician for 10 years. After completing his time with the Air Force, Donald wanted to return to service as tensions between the United States and Korea and Vietnam were heating up.

“At the time, the Air Force didn’t have openings in my field,” Donald says. “I walked across the building to the Naval recruiting office and joined that day.”

Donald continued deciphering encrypted messages with the Navy, spending time around the world. His life and the history of our country were forever changed on January 23, 1968 when his ship, the USS Pueblo, was attacked and captured in the Sea of Japan by the North Korean military.

The Pueblo was on a peaceful mission to monitor, record and analyze wireless communications. On board were 83 servicemen, primarily trained as communications technicians. When the ship came under attack by North Korean PT boats, submarine chasers and an aircraft, the Pueblo did not fire back as its one .50-caliber machine gun was under deck. Trying to place the gun in firing position would put the men in peril. One crew member died while destroying classified materials. The others were taken prisoners.

From January to December of 1968, Donald and his fellow crew mates were routinely interrogated and tortured. At the time, the United States Department of Defense did not recognize the members of the Pueblo as Prisoners of War.

“Every day I thought about my father and how he was coping,” Donald says. “I worried my captivity would kill him.”

At one point in his imprisonment, the Pueblo crew was shown a propaganda piece of a North Korean sports team competing in England. Part of the news story included footage of everyday life in England. In one frame, an English businessman looked into the camera and raised his middle finger in protest.

“Our guards asked us what this meant,” Donald says with a smile. “We said it was a Hawaiian good luck sign.”

Days later, the guards took photos of the crew to send back to their families to assure them the servicemen were healthy and well-cared for under the North Korean’s watch. In every photo, crewmembers discreetly displayed the “Hawaiian good luck sign” in silent protest.

As the photos made their way to friends and family stateside they were printed in a small town newspaper. Eventually the story and photos were picked up by Time International, which made its way into the hands of the North Korean military, including the guards of the Pueblo’s crew.

“We had the worst week of our lives after the guards read the magazine,” Donald adds. “Somehow we made it.”

Not long after the Time International story ran, the interrogations and beatings stopped, and the soldiers learned they were going home. Donald and his crewmates were taken to the 38th parallel, a popular name given to latitude 38 degrees north, which is the demarcation line between North and South Korea.

“I didn’t believe it was true until I crossed the line into South Korea,” Donald says. “I was finally free.”

While the crew of the Pueblo was free, part of their story and the destiny of their beloved ship remained entwined with North Korea. Donald went on to finish his naval career, retiring as a recruiter while stationed in Montana. The ship’s skipper Commander Lloyd Bucher nearly faced a court-martial trial based on his decision not to secure the machine gun under deck and retaliate. The Navy eventually dropped the proceedings citing the mental toil the crew had already endured.

“Commander Bucher had the support of the entire crew,” Donald says. “He was a good man who put our safety first.”

As for the USS Pueblo, it is still held by North Korea today. Pueblo is the only ship in the U.S. Navy still on the commissioned roster that is held captive.

Twenty-two years after Donald and his fellow crew mates were taken captive; they were finally recognized as Prisoners of War. Donald received the Prisoner of War Medal and Combat Action Ribbon for his valor in service to our country.


Pattie Craumer Published in Chicken Soup for the Soul Series

The words were in her heart and head. They were formed over a 24-month journey of caring for her father before his death and grieving his loss after his passing. Pattie Craumer of Mechanicsburg gave her words life in a short story published in June in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Navigating Eldercare & Dementia: 101 Stories for Family Caregivers. Her piece, “Behind the Things” tells the story of parting with material possessions and the memories they hold after the death of her father.

Pattie grew up in Camp Hill and moved to the western part of the country to raise her family. She moved back to the area seven years ago to be closer to her father, Bob. In the spring of 2019, Bob broke his neck during a fall. Over the following months, Bob spent time in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation homes before moving to Homeland Center. In his final days, he received services from Homeland Hospice.

“I wasn’t able to be with my mother at the end of her life,” Pattie says. “I wanted to spend each day possible with my father.”

During Bob’s final days, he received spiritual counseling and music therapy from a harpist. These services provided Bob and his family great peace during a difficult time.

“Homeland Hospice was essential to his end-of-life care,” Pattie adds. “I wish I would have understood the scope of Homeland’s services earlier. We certainly would have used them.”

Following her father’s passing, Pattie connected with Noelle Valentine, MSW, LSW, lead bereavement counselor for Homeland Hospice for bereavement support. Pattie and Noelle met a few times in person before the announcement of stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the following months, Pattie and Noelle continued their counseling sessions over the phone.

“Noelle immediately understood what I was going through,” Pattie says. “Our year-long time together was transformational for me.”

Homeland’s bereavement programs are available to the bereaved of Homeland’s patients as well as anyone in the community who is experiencing grief. Bereavement support group meetings also are held on a rotating schedule throughout the year.

As Pattie and her siblings began cleaning out their parents’ home, she was overcome by the stories behind each possession. Pattie experienced the dismantling of her parents’ lives as two unforgettable lives unfolding again, but backwards. She decided to save a few key pieces of furniture with the hope of breathing new life into them in the future.

Pattie salvaged a high chair used by her parents’ four grandchildren. After cleaning it up, she found a buyer on Facebook Marketplace who needed a second highchair to accommodate visits from her grandchildren.

“Knowing another family can make happy memories with this piece brought me so much joy,” Pattie says. “In a small way, the story of my parents continues.”

This culmination of losing her father, bereavement counseling and finding new purpose for her parents’ belongings inspired Pattie to submit her story for publication. While Pattie has never called herself a writer, her mother, Natalie, always aspired to write. In many ways, Pattie’s piece was a tribute to her mother’s dream as much as an outlet to share her journey.

“Something meaningful came out of a painful experience,” Pattie adds. “I hope my story can bring comfort to others.”

Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania. To learn more about Homeland Hospice’s bereavement support, please contact Noelle Valentine at Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

Lifestyle Choices and Alzheimer’s Disease

By Barbara Goll, Community Liaison Educator and Nutritionist

Most polls consistently show that people fear losing their memory and mind more than anything else, even death. Our brains are the very essence of our very being. Today, 5.3 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and we are predicted to reach 15 million by 2050. Alzheimer’s disease currently has no cure and medications offer only a temporary solution for some of the symptoms that are associated with the disease. So, what are we to do? Plenty!

We can start now, at any age, with any diagnosis, and sharpen brain function to avoid memory loss with making the following lifestyle changes:

  1. Increase movement and exercise. Try not to be sedentary for too long and get up and move. We can all can think of ways they can add movement to our lives whether it be short bursts of exercise, taking steps instead of elevator, parking further away from stores, or increasing time doing enjoyable hobbies such as gardening or walking.
  2. Make food choices for nutrient density. Get the most “bang for your buck” by eating foods with the most nutrients and the least number of calories. Good choices include leafy greens, colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grain starches, healthy oils, nuts and seeds and lean meats. Avoid processed foods, saturated and trans fats, and sugar. What we eat directly impacts how we experience life.
  3. Maintain strong family and social connections. Socialness creates a strong sense of purposefulness and belonging. Join a group, club, or social organization. Volunteer for something that has meaning to you and continue to be present for family get-togethers.
  4. Keep your brain active. Learn new skills or consider switching hands to do routine tasks such as brushing your teeth. This creates new connections and stimulates the brain while challenging and inspiring you. Participate in activities that are mentally stimulating.
  5. Give your body the rest it needs. Set a target of at least 7 hours of sleep and frequent naps to allow the brain to remove waste and refresh itself.
  6. Destress your life and consider a slower pace. Do our daily schedules have to be so vigorous with little down time? Can adjustments be made to allow more time for things that bring us joy and a slower the pace of your life? As it is often said, “Take time to smell the roses.”

Alzheimer’s disease develops when our brain becomes a product of how we move, what we eat, our social nature, how we challenge ourselves, our quality of sleep and our ability to manage stress. Take steps now to improve your lifestyle choices.

Homeland HomeHealth and HomeCare: Five Years of Excellence and Counting

Since 1867, Homeland Center has been committed to meeting the ever-changing needs of the community. In keeping with this tradition, Homeland HomeHealth and Homeland HomeCare were established five years ago to provide a continuum of services for patients and their families using a team-approach, which places patients at the center of care. Since the launch of these services, thousands of patients have received exemplary care by a team who treats them like family.

As the director of Homeland HomeHealth with more than two decades of experience in the field, Lora Bierce, RN, WCC, COS-C, has seen the program expand to meet the growing demand of patients who want the independence of staying in their homes as they age. The HomeHealth team includes physical, occupational and speech therapists; nurses, nutritional counselors, social workers and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) who are dedicated to compassionate care and medical excellence.

Since its formation, Homeland HomeHealth has expanded its scope of services to better serve patients. In 2017, HomeHealth added telehealth.

“Telehealth gave us the ability to reduce re-hospitalization by more than 20%,” Lori adds. “It has also been an essential tool to our care during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Lora takes great pride in working with a staff that provides compassionate care to patients and their families.

Recently, Lora’s team had the pleasure of working with a gentleman with congestive heart failure. The HomeHealth team worked diligently to follow his wishes to remain in his home as long as possible. As his illness progressed, Lora and her team helped him transition to hospice care with Homeland for the final days of his end-of-life journey.

“We were with him every step of the way,” Lora says. “His final days were filled with comfort and peace, which is all he ever wanted.

Like Lora, Tanya Custer, LPN, Director of Homeland HomeCare, is driven by her love of helping others. Homeland HomeCare specializes in the non-medical aspects of care to include meal preparation, light housekeeping, running errands, monitoring diet and medication reminders, bathing and dressing. Personal home care can be administered anyplace an individual calls home.

In 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a new regulation allowing home care aides to be trained to do additional tasks in the home setting. Homeland HomeCare was ahead of the game“As soon as we received word about this option we started educating our CNAs to become Direct Care Workers,” Tonya says. “We trained our CNAs on peg tube care, ostomy care, assistance with medication administration and simple wound care.”

For Tanya and her team, it’s taking a walk for ice cream or hearing family stories from their clients that make their work rewarding. Tanya recalls a gentleman who was staying with his wife in a hotel while their house was undergoing construction. The fresh paint in this home was compounding his health issues making it difficult for him to breath. The HomeCare team cared for him in his hotel so his wife could continue working.

“I’m proud to work with a creative team who goes above and beyond to provide excellent care,” Tanya says. “This work is far more than a job; it's a calling.”

Both Lora and Tanya foresee significant growth in their services over the coming five years as the baby boomer generation ages and Americans live longer than ever before. Today, 46 million adults living in the United States (15 percent of the population) are 65 or older. By 2060, that number is expected to climb to about 98 million, or 24 percent of the population (Population Reference Bureau).

“We are prepared for whatever the future brings,” Lora and Tanya say. “It’s a privilege to serve individuals and families in our community.

For more information on Homeland HomeHealth call 717-412-0166. For information on Homeland HomeCare call 717-221-7892.

The Importance of Spiritual Counseling

About Homeland At Home - holding hands imageAs you or a loved one are nearing the end-of-life, physical symptom and pain relief is essential but it’s only a part of Homeland Hospice’s overall healthcare approach. Helping patients and their families manage the emotional and mental aspect of this poignant journey, through spiritual counseling, is part of Homeland’s holistic approach to healthcare.

Homeland Hospice has several counselors and chaplains on staff who help patients and family members with spiritual issues. They answer questions and help them find meaning and hope.

“Spiritual care and counseling throughout the end-of-life journey helps the patient explore their life, their legacy, their wisdom, truth and values,” says Rev. Dann Caldwell. “As a hospice chaplain it is my job, my purpose, to be a resource who offers guidance at this time of life. All of the Homeland Hospice chaplains and counselors are here to offer hope, comfort, compassion, and address questions and concerns.”

Approximately 50 percent of Homeland Hospice’s patients receive spiritual counseling. Regardless of religious affiliation, Homeland’s counselors and chaplains respect each individual’s beliefs, offering support and encouragement while reminding patients and families that they are not alone while nearing the end-of-life.

Patients who already have a long-standing relationship within their congregation may decide to forego additional support. Those who do request it typically receive at least one or two spiritual counseling visits each month.

“We certainly offer more visits if that’s what the patient wants, and we offer support and guidance to all persons from all denominations and religious affiliations … or no religious affiliations at all.” says Caldwell.

While spiritual counseling is focused on the patient, family members can and do participate from time to time.

“Sometimes family members are present during a visit and join in prayer with us,” Caldwell says. “Some request certain hymns to be sung. Depending on the patient’s needs or requests, we can offer a spiritual-specific or a general approach to spiritual counseling. We honor our patient’s wishes.”

At Homeland, we are here to help you find hope and live the best life you can. Contact us to discuss how we may support you and your family.

Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves 14 communities throughout Central Pennsylvania by providing end-of-life care either in a person’s home or wherever they reside, including nursing facilities. Homeland also provides bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of their loved one. This service is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

To learn more, please call (717) 221-7890.

Chaplain Dann Caldwell Appointed Board President of Christian Churches United of the Tri-County Area

It has been said that life comes full circle. For Dann Caldwell, chaplain for Homeland Center and Homeland Hospice, the loop he began as an intern with Christian Churches United of the Tri-County Area (CCU) has closed with his recent appointment to serve as president of the organization’s board of directors.

During a yearlong sabbatical from Princeton Seminary, Dann worked as an intern at CCU, which is a partnership of more 100 Christian congregations in Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry counties. CCU provides housing assistance for our most vulnerable neighbors in need. Now, as board president, Dann is helping to lead CCU during one of the most difficult times in housing in recent years.

“Our greatest challenge is helping our community respond to the impact of COVID-19,” remarks Darrel Reinford, executive director for CCU. “We are working diligently to avoid a spike in homelessness.”

CCU’s spectrum of services includes helping individuals and families with rental assistance to prevent eviction; managing most of the emergency shelters in Dauphin County; helping families find permanent housing; operating overnight shelters during the winter months; managing Susquehanna Harbor Safe Haven, a long-term residential facility for chronically homeless men with a mental health diagnosis; and spiritual outreach efforts throughout the region.

“It is a privilege and honor to serve as the President of CCU,” Dann says. “I am blessed to serve the often forgotten members of our community.”

Dann’s commitment to the service of others is rooted in his role with Homeland. For more than eight years, Dann has served as a chaplain for patients and their families receiving services through Homeland Hospic as well as ministering to the residents of Homeland Center.

The team at Homeland considers not only the patient’s physical well-being, but mental and spiritual aspects, as well. Chaplains help patients and family members deal with spiritual issues, answer questions and find meaning and hope. They provide continued support to ensure no one ever feels alone.

“I’m humbled to share my faith with the residents and patients of Homeland,” Dann says. “It’s a pleasure to connect my spirituality through my work and volunteer efforts.”

Homeland Center is a private, not for profit, continuing care retirement community providing skilled nursing, personal care, Alzheimer’s/dementia and short-term rehabilitation services.

Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves 14 communities throughout Central Pennsylvania by providing end-of-life care either in a person’s home or wherever they reside, including nursing facilities. Homeland also provides bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of their loved one. This service is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

To learn more about Homeland Center, please contact (717) 221-7900. For information about Homeland Hospice, call (717) 221-7890.


Love, Laughter and Determination in Sickness and in Health

Meet Carol and Clyde Cressler

After 57 years of marriage, Carol and Clyde Cressler of Mechanicsburg know how to bring out the best in one another. They laugh at each other’s jokes, share similar passions and take on life’s challenges as a team. When Clyde was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 55, Carol became his advocate, learning everything she could about the disorder. With the help of caregivers, including Homeland Hospice, Clyde is managing his disease and finds happiness in the small blessings of life.

“My wife can do anything,” Clyde says with a smile. “Sometimes all at once.”

Carol and Clyde met while pursing degrees in elementary education at Shippensburg University. After college, Carol taught at Shaull Elementary School and Clyde taught at Sporting Hill. After several years, Clyde returned to college and earned his pharmacy degree. He went on to create Care Capital Management, a pharmaceutical company, which owned and operated 18 Medicine Shoppe pharmacies in the region. They sold the business in 2021.

The couple’s life plans changed when Clyde was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1998 not long after he had heart surgery. Parkinson’s causes some brain cells to die, particularly those making dopamine. The impacted brain cells help control movement and coordination. While tremors are common, the disorder also causes stiffness or slowing of movement. Clyde’s greatest struggles involve walking and stiffness in his legs. While there is no cure for the disease, medications and movement can help with treatment.

After the couple learned of Clyde’s diagnosis, they joined support groups, attended conferences and connected with a medical team committed to Clyde’s treatment. At one conference, they met Michael J. Fox, actor, author and advocate for Parkinson’s disease.

Carol keeps a photo of the actor taken with her and Clyde on the outside of one of her many binders. The binders include flyers of events, medical notes and her personal research meticulously organized to chronicle Clyde’s treatment.

“When your spouse has a disease you have it too,” Carol says. “We promised in our wedding vows to support one another in sickness and in health.”

Ten years ago, Carol began leading a local support group for families impacted by Parkinson’s disease. Through the group, Carol has developed friendships with other caregivers.

“It is comforting to be around people who understand what we are going through,” Carol says. “I don’t know what I would do without their support.”

In 2015, Clyde had Deep Brain Surgery (DBS), which inserts electrodes into a targeted area of the brain and an impulse generator battery (like a pacemaker) in the chest. The impulse generator battery provides an electrical impulse to a part of the brain involved in motor function.

To further help delay the disease by keeping Clyde’s body in motion; the couple has taken dance classes at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Lemoyne. Despite Clyde’s illness he learned to tango, waltz, rumba and swing dance. Clyde also practiced boxing through Rock Steady Boxing, which helps people with Parkinson’s improve their flexibility and range of motion.

In late 2019 into early 2020, Clyde began experiencing delusions. Following a series of medical issues and hospitalizations, Clyde’s doctors took him off his Parkinson’s medications, which were causing the delusions. While one component of his health was treated, Clyde’s ability to move became far more challenging requiring additional assistance.

Carol connected with the team at Homeland Hospice to provide additional care to meet Clyde’s changing circumstances. The Homeland teams includes a registered nurse case manager, hospice medical director, attending physician, volunteer coordinator, social workers, counselors, home health aides, and others. All team members are patient and family-focused, allowing Clyde and Carol to be in control at all times.

While Clyde and Carol look forward to their regular appointments with the Homeland team, they are delighted by visits from Reynaldo (Rey) Villarreal, chaplain for Homeland Hospice who shares his love of music through singing and playing his guitar.

“We both love music,” Carol says. “Rey plays the guitar and sings beautifully which lifts both our spirits.”

In the coming days, Clyde will have his first therapeutic massage provided by Homeland.

“We’re very grateful for the Homeland team,” Carol adds. “They care about the well-being of both of us.”

Among their many daily visits from caregivers, family and friends, Carol and Clyde find comfort and happiness from their children and grandchildren along with their dog Honey who keeps a loving and watchful eye over Clyde.

“To find contentment while battling a disease is to admit acceptance,” Carol says. “This is just one season in our life together.”

Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania. To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

The Remarkable Life of Anna Weinfurter, WWII Veteran

A remarkable life is not given. It is earned through service above oneself and demonstrations of courage and compassion in extraordinary times. Anna Weinfurter’s journey began in Montana and took her across the country while serving in the United States Navy during World War II. While her uniform has been retired for decades, she continues to embody valor, honor and kindness.

Former Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Anna Weinfurter is an example of a remarkable life earned by rising to life’s challenges with bravery and faith.

Homeland Hospice recently recognized Anna, age 98 of Carlisle, with a special pin and certificate through the We Honor Veterans program, created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The program works to improve the quality of health care for all veterans. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

In addition, Chaplain Mark P. Harris, M.A., M.Div., Spiritual Counselor at Homeland Hospice and a former hospital corpsman, presented Anna with an authentic rank badge from her time in the Navy.

“I haven’t seen or touched a badge like this in so long,” Anna says with tears in her eyes. “I’m so happy to hold this again.”

As the daughter of homesteaders in Montana, Anna grew up surrounded by animals and acres of farmland. She was one of nine children in a close-knit family. After high school, Anna became a teacher. Her life, and the history of our country, changed when the United States entered WWII in 1942 following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

“I was 20 when I entered the Navy,” Anna says. “My eldest brother chose the Navy and I was determined to follow in his footsteps.”

Anna left the family farm for the first time in her life to report for duty in Seattle, Washington in the spring of 1942. She was assigned to Hunter’s College in New York City to complete basic training. Anna and her fellow soldiers traveled by “troop train” from Seattle to New York. A troop train solely transported military personnel. At the time, soldiers were segregated by rank and gender. During the day, Anna completed physical exercises, which included running alongside the train. At night, the train continued its journey to New York while the soldiers slept.

While at Hunter’s College, Anna had a chance encounter with her eldest brother, whose ship was docked in New York City for the weekend. Anna’s brother spotted her in a parade held to promote United States savings bonds. That weekend, Anna and her brother were guests of a local family who prepared an authentic Italian dinner. For Anna, this was her first experience eating food that didn’t come from her family’s farm.

“I was so surprised to see my brother and overwhelmed by the hospitality,” Anna says. “It was an unforgettable night.”

Following basic training, Anna once again traveled by train to Long Beach, California where she received pharmacist training, which is part of the scope of work of a hospital corpsman. As caregivers for both the Navy and Marines, hospital corpsmen treat the injuries and illnesses of soldiers in a variety of capacities and locations.

“I was one of only 13 women in the training course,” Anna recounts. “I knew how to type and had the experience of teaching which helped me advance.”

Anna next reported to Treasure Island California Naval Base in San Francisco Bay (closed in 1997), where she served for the next four years. During WWII, Treasure Island was used as a center for receiving, training, and dispatching service personnel serving in the South Pacific.

Anna was assigned to work with a high profile commander of the hospital at Treasure Island. Following the Bataan Death March in April 1942, surviving soldiers of the atrocity were sent to the hospital for immediate care before they were transferred to other bases for rehabilitation and recovery. Anna’s commander insisted on meeting each solider. Anna worked by his side as they collectively greeted each soldier and bared witness to this tragic moment in our nation’s history.

As the war progressed, Anna’s work, and that of the Navy base, remained focused on the fighting in the South Pacific. Unlike modern-day communication platforms, which provide instant access to news across the globe, Anna knew little about the war efforts in Europe.

When the news broke about the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, Anna and her fellow soldiers were overwhelmed with pride and happiness.

“We tossed our white caps into the air,” Anna remembers. “Throughout San Francisco everyone was celebrating. We couldn’t believe we did it.”

When WWII ended in September of 1945 Anna was in New York City. She was filled with relief and pure joy to see an end to the devastation. For Anna’s parents, the end of the war meant Anna and five of her six brothers would no longer be in harm’s way.

While her time as a Pharmacist’s Mate First Class came to an end, Anna’s service to our country as a military spouse continued. While at Treasure Island, Anna met and married Joe Barnett, a hospital corpsman from Alabama. Anna and Joe had one son Curtis Barnett, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, a beloved veterinarian who worked in Cumberland County until his death in 2017. Following Joe’s passing, Anna remarried. Her second husband, who also served in the military, has since passed away.

In July, Anna will celebrate her 99th birthday. Last year, during the closures of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anna’s community recognized her special day with a parade of cars passing her home. This year, Anna hopes to see her friends and neighbors in person. At nearly 99, Anna greets each day with gratitude and happiness.

“I’m honored I could serve my country,” Anna adds. “My life has been filled with blessings.”

Returning To the In-Person World

By Barbara Goll, BS, Community Education Liaison/Nutritionist

The COVID-19 pandemic brought pain, hardship and profound changes in the way we socialize and engage with each other. It made us feel like Bill Murray in the popular 90s movie Groundhog Day, in which his character lives the same day over and over. We unwillingly progressed to a new normal. For some, our pre-pandemic routines seem strange and anxiety creeps in as we now attempt to change our patterns yet again.

Isolation and enforced social distancing have affected our ability to interact with others, bringing loneliness to many. Loneliness has a harmful impact on mental and physical health. Research shows loneliness can cause depression, increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, a weakened immune system, anxiety and dementia. Addressing loneliness as the pandemic subsides is paramount to well-being.

Receiving the vaccination or having antibodies has given us hope to return to gatherings, travel and other social activities that bring us joy and comfort. But slow and steady is the key to rebuilding our social connections and in-person interactions.

Getting back out into the world may seem overwhelming at first. It’s important to gauge your comfort level to make the healthiest choices for you. Moving too quickly into activities you aren’t comfortable with, or that overwhelm your schedule, could bring on anxiety, panic and trouble sleeping.

The Power of Resilience

Psychologists define the word resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” A recent study by the Gerontological Society of America revealed older adults (70 years and older) showed more resilience in facing life’s challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to younger counterparts. This age group may be uniquely able to cope given the life experiences and coping mechanisms that they learned over time. They have more emotional intelligence, personal fortitude, and resilience.

The study also found that age and emotional well-being tend to increase together even as mental acuity and physical health may diminish. Compared with young adults, people 50 and older score consistently more positive emotions, independent of income or education. This isn’t their first rodeo. Older adults have been through tough times before. They are survivors!

Ease Back into the Swing of Things

Before rushing off to experience a new, more hopeful, period of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to assess our personal feelings and what we feel comfortable with today.

Below are tips to help navigate a return to in-person activities:

  1. Go easy on yourself. Welcome emotions of all kinds while being compassionate to yourself. All of your feelings are valid. Do not compare yourselves to others, or how they think you should feel, or how you think you should feel. We all recover and adjust at our own pace. After missing our in-person gatherings for so long, we may not be feeling overly excited inside about getting together again. There is no right or wrong. Do not add pressure to yourself by believing that you should feel a certain way.
  2. Be mindful. Start on a slow journey to joy. Perhaps try a mindful walk in a park where you feel at peace, visit a painting that brings you joy, listen to your favorite music or eat outside at your favorite restaurant. Mindfulness allows you to savor life and focus on immediate surroundings and needs and not the unknown future or past.
  3. Recognize your feelings. Feelings of fear and sadness are there for a reason – the world has gone through a real trauma. We have been on edge for so long and anxiety needs to subside slowly. Reactions of guilt, resentment, excitement and loss are normal. Time is needed to heal. Watch your pace. You may be more exhausted than you think by stimulation you have not had for over a year.
  4. Understand we’ve changed. For many of us, interests and priorities have changed. We may take up new interests and leave others behind. It’s completely normal for things that used to bring joy to feel less satisfying or different. Perhaps you’ve been dreaming of returning to your favorite restaurant only to go there and feel like you prefer to be at home. Or perhaps you are eager to travel, but the idea of getting on a plane is overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to say no to things you are not yet comfortable doing. Listen to and speak respectfully to family and friends about what is reasonable and comfortable for travel and gatherings.
  5. Realize self-indulgence is not overindulgence. A little pampering is vital for your well-being and for those around you. It can help you ease back into life. Many people have found comfort in classic TV shows that bring us back to a simpler time such as M*A*S*H, Happy Days, Andy Griffith and Lawrence Welk. Others have found comfort in simple pleasures such as premium chocolate (sales rose 21% during the pandemic!) or athletic leisurewear.
  6. Minimize risk with lifestyle choices. The pandemic has taught us that being young doesn’t guarantee your health. Having two or more health concerns greatly increased your risk for fatal infection. Lifestyle choices matter. Take care to exercise regularly (in consultation with your physician), make healthy food choices, practice method to reduce stress, get proper sleep and make time for social interaction.
  7. Technology is your friend. COVID-19 has increased adoption of online activities such as banking, grocery ordering, telehealth, shopping and connecting virtually with family and friends. Many of these things will remain in our lives as we continue to digitize and enjoy the convenience these online amenities provide.
  8. Get Back to Nature. Spending time in nature can help you appreciate the world and boost your mood. Getting outside provides a positive perspective on nature’s beauty. If going outside isn’t possible, bring the outdoors in by watching nature videos or opening a window to listen to the soothing sounds of nature.

Returning to in-person activities won’t look the same or feel the same to any two people – and that’s okay. Think positive and, in time, you will get there! And remember, you are not alone on this journey. If you find yourself struggling to get back in in-person life, seek guidance from a trusted family member, friend or professional.