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  • Frances Schwabenland

Portrait of a hero in the time of covid

We The People Of Hope and Healing

“The eyes are the windows to the soul.”

William Shakespeare

These days, with gowns, masks and gloved hands, the eyes hold the sacredness of connection. When I photographed Bethany, she was covered from head to toe in protective gear but when I looked into her eyes, I could see the smile she was making behind her mask. The eyes are the windows to the soul and Bethany’s soul has an exuberant, etherial presence. She started out as a recreational therapist and was close to finishing her graduate work, when to her parents’ amazement, Bethany told them she had changed her mind and wanted to study nursing. She felt called to have the physicality with the patients in the hospital. Fast forward to the present…Bethany is a mom to Anna and Luke. Her husband Andrew is finishing up his doctoral dissertation. Kay, her mother-in-law, a few miles away is presently and courageously on hospice care AND several times a week, Bethany gets up before 4 am, drives one and a half hours to Penn Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia. She works a 12 hour shift on the medical surgical unit and then drives one and a half hours home. If I just woke up after surgery, I would be thrilled to have Bethany by my side. She has joined forces with other nurses in her town to try to get much needed face masks for protection. On her front porch is a large box and her neighbors drop off food for Oxford SILO (Serving, Inspiring and Loving Others). She volunteered to be the point person! Kindness definitely attracts kindness. When I asked Bethany what she did for herself during these difficult times, she told me that she goes for long walks and just that day, someone left a box of homemade fudge for her by a tree that she goes by. The smile in Bethany’s eyes comes from all the love she shares with so many. When I first contacted her to photograph, she wanted to give me many others who “do so much more than I do.”….I was thrilled when she finally relented!

To capture that selfless and ethereal love that Bethany so generously gives, I used the stained glass windows from the Philadelphia Mural entitled, “Amplify” by Benjamin Volta. Bethany’s presence is one of a spirited peace that is contagious. Paper cranes are becoming known around the world as a tangible prayer for peace. These colorful cranes are from the mural, “Peace is a Haiku Song” by Parris Stancell and Josh Sarantitis. The white and yellow flowers symbolize her purity of heart and her life giving energy. I inserted the sunrise because Bethany truly lives in the moment and gives her all each day. I wanted this to be posted on Mother’s Day because this mother of two took the shift of another nurse who is a first time mom, allowing her to be home to celebrate. May this be a gift back. She connects heaven to earth and certainly inspired me. Bethany Atkinson, RN is truly an unsung hero among us. 

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