To recognize the two-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, staff filled the MGH Chapel to reflect on the losses, hardships and lessons learned and to also express support for those affected by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

“There is heartbreak everywhere,” said Rev. Alice Cabotaje, director of MGH Spiritual Care and Education, who welcomed guests to the March 24 Peace, Inclusivity and Healing Service. “At times, it feels like too much to bear. We have experienced uncertainty again and again, and we have also learned what it truly means to live, to love, to listen, to see.”

Cabotaje encouraged attendees to participate in the service with open hearts, minds and spirits as they listened to reflections from David F.M. Brown, MD, MGH president, Marie Borgella, RN, Bigelow 7 nurse director, and Kate Gerne and Roxan Del Valle, spiritual care providers. During the event, Lauren Aloisio, RN, played crystal singing bowls.

Brown thanked MGH staff for their dedication over the past two years despite the emotional and physical fatigue many continue to face. He acknowledged many of the painful moments since March 2020, but also looked ahead to what he hopes will be a summer of traveling, relaxing and spending time with loved ones.  

“I feel optimistic about the future,” Brown said. “Vaccines are safe, effective and widely available. We’ll remain vigilant against new variants, but for the moment, COVID-19 appears to be moving toward something we live with rather than in fear of.”

Dressed in bright yellow and blue to honor the people of Ukraine, Borgella spoke about her own hopes for the future.

“I believe that in a time of great uncertainty, we must also remember that uncertainty remains all around us – but never more so than today,” she said. “As we go about our daily lives, while so many things are fighting for our attention, let’s find a way to identify a time and space to enter our inner tranquility and peace. Because we need this right now.”

Borgella also encouraged staff to celebrate and take care of each other – simply sharing a smile could change someone’s day for the better.

“COVID-19 has shown us that we are all going through this together,” she said. “We are stronger together, and we must remain curious and humble about our differences and understand no one is flawless. Let’s embrace one another and continue to pull each other into our own peace.”

Gerne and Del Valle led a ritual acknowledging the ways in which people can come together during times of brokenness. Earlier in the week, MGHers were invited to visit the chapel and add a piece of glass to a sunflower mosaic. The sunflower, which symbolizes peace, longevity and devotion, is also the official flower of Ukraine.

“The mosaic is a fitting representation of the beautiful ways people have come together amid the brokenness of the past two years,” Del Valle said. “It is the result of helping hands from all backgrounds and walks of life that gathered to become part of a bigger whole."

As the ceremony came to a close, attendees were given a package of sunflower seeds to plant in preparation for the warm, hopeful seasons ahead.

“As we go from this place, may the divine power of peace, inclusivity and healing be within us as our strength and comforter,” said Cabotaje.