Heart ‘attack’ project shows love to Cayce’s homebound elderly

By Jessica Brodie

CAYCE—One Midlands church showed some extra special love to its elderly homebound members in honor of “love month.”

Cayce United Methodist Church members, from preschoolers to older adults, handcrafted Valentine’s Day cards for the church’s elderly who are confined to their homes or nursing facilities. The 24 shut-ins, all in their 90s, got 15-20 valentines apiece.

Some of the valentines were scribbled by children as young as 2 or 3 years old, while others were meticulously crafted with lace or hand-painted.

“They put a lot of labor into making these,” said Debbie McDonald, assistant to the pastor with adult ministries, who works with these homebound elders, dubbed by the church as “senior saints.”

The cards were the brainchild of McDonald, who sees firsthand how these men and women live. Most are confined to a bed because of physical infirmities and cannot leave the home.

Additionally, because of COVID-19, they have been able to have few to no visitors during the past year. McDonald called the project “Heart Attack,” because she envisioned each older adult receiving a loving “attack” in the form of a bunch of fun, festive and thoughtful homemade hearts.

“The goal was to infuse them with something that made them feel special for Valentine’s Day,” McDonald said.

She put the plea out to congregation, calling on all people to make a paper valentine that could fit in an envelope. They could use whatever they wished to craft the valentines—paint, drawings, stickers, anything. She collected the valentines at church, where people placed the completed cards in a large box covered in heart wrapping paper with a slot.

“When you think Valentine’s Day, you think love and lots of Scriptures on love, and one of these is ‘the greatest of these is love’ (1 Corinthians 13:13), so I thought, ‘Let’s just show them in some tangible way we are thinking of them,’” she said.

The finished cards represented for McDonald a reflection of generational traditions; children made cards like they’d receive in a classroom, while older people made cards with lace, poetry and other sentimental niceties like they would have exchanged in their younger days.

“I think all of us through this pandemic have felt what it is like to be in their place,” McDonald said. “We have been confined, not as mobile, and everyone can relate to the shut-in now—the person who can drive or go anywhere. It put everyone in the shoes of what these elderly people live like every day.”

McDonald said having something tangible they could open and feel was a true boost for these men and women, enabling them to feel the love of their church.

“Some of them said, ‘I can’t believe how much time this took,’ and one lady told me she just cried when she opened them and it took her back down memory lane,” McDonald said. “One woman whose mother has Alzheimer’s said her mother was ecstatic opening every one.”

Marilyn Livingston, Cayce UMC member whose mother received some of the cards, said the “Heart Attack” project made her mother feel special and loved.

“It means so much to her, and to me, that she is remembered in such kind and thoughtful ways,” Livingston said, sharing a photo of the cards all taped to her mother’s wall at home. “Thank you all for all you do to add sunshine and smiles to Mom’s days.”

The Rev. Meg Cook said she is incredibly proud of the way the congregation showed up for their senior saints.

“Debbie’s idea really sparked our imaginations and really took off,” Cook said. “Some folks might believe our older generation is unseen, but this is not the case at Cayce.”

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