No March for Life this month, but still lots of ways to Celebrate Life

Rocio Madera

Although the annual Celebrate Life March will be a little different this year, what will remain the same is the enthusiasm of the pro-life community that is once again ready to demonstrate and defend the beauty of human life from conception until natural death. 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and to keep everyone safe, the Celebrate Life March will not be held in Denver this year. In spite of this, the pro-life community will still be able to celebrate life and participate from their own homes or local parishes, if allowed.  

“We need to thank God for the gift of life and mourn the loss of vast millions of innocent children,” said Lynn Grandon, Program Director of the Respect Life Office at Catholic Charities of Denver. “Participate in our social media campaign with clever and poignant messages – and pray before you post them – that God may use them to touch hearts and change lives.”   

Social Media Campaign

For starters, the Respect Life Office has launched a social media campaign throughout January for people to show their support in creative ways. To participate, all you have to do is create images, skits, songs, or banners and hold them on public sidewalks at intersections to support the pro-life movement. You can also participate by sharing inspiring pro-life posts on social media using the hashtag #CelebrateLife2021

“This is a challenging time in our country.  Strong winds are blowing to overturn our core values honoring the value, worth, and dignity of all human life at every age and every stage of development,” Grandon added. “We as Catholics must set our hearts to lead by example: learn apologetics on all life issues, share these truths with kindness, and encourage one another in community.”  

Local Ways to Celebrate

In Colorado and across the country, local parishes will be celebrating life in their own ways with special Masses, Adoration Holy Hours and Eucharistic Processions following the Department of Health’s COVID-19 guidelines to keep everyone safe. 

For Colorado parishes that will be participating in the celebration for life, click here. To find the parish nearest you, click here to view an interactive map.

Additionally, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila will be celebrating a special livestreamed Respect Life Mass at the Cathedral on Jan. 23 at 10 a.m. Click here to tune in.

There is limited space to attend the Respect Life Mass with Archbishop Aquila; to sign up, click here.

National Day of Prayer on Jan. 22

Another way to participate in the celebration for life is by joining the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children on Jan. 22.  On this day in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the country. As Catholics and pro-life advocates, we are called to observe this day through prayer and fasting. Click here for more information.

National March for Life

On the other hand, just as it has been happening since 1974, the National March for Life will be held on Jan. 29 in Washington, D.C. 

Even though it, too, will look different this year due to the pandemic, the pro-life community will still have the chance to participate virtually. The event will feature as the keynote speaker and guest of honor Tim Tebow, former NFL player, New York Times bestselling author, and Heisman Trophy recipient. Among other special guests, Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knight of Columbus, will be honored with the 2021 Pro-Life Legacy Award, an award recognizing his exceptional work advocating for the dignity of the unborn human. To watch the events virtually on Jan. 29, RSVP here

Livestreamed Holy Hours on EWTN

Moreover, as a result of local attendance restrictions in place, this year’s National Prayer Vigil for Life in Washington, D.C., will not be open to the public. In response, for the first time ever, bishops across the country will be taking turns leading live-streamed holy hours throughout the night, with an opening Mass celebration that will be televised through EWTN. For the full programming schedule, click here.

“Coming together in these events remind us that we are not alone in the challenge to uphold our faith in the public square,” Grandon concluded. “Also, our Lord and the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us join us in the Holy Mass to speak to our hearts and give us grace and courage to do what is right as we strive to promote the Gospel of Life.”  

COMING UP: Lessons on proper elder care after my mother’s death

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We buried my Mom last month. 

In the summer of last year, I first drove her to her new memory care facility. My heart was breaking. She was so scared and vulnerable but was trying so hard to be brave. My brother said it was like taking your kid to pre-school for the first time. And never going back to pick her up. 

But we had to do it. She was far too confused for our 97-year-old Dad to take care of her. She didn’t recognize him. She would lock herself in her room, afraid of the “strange man” in their apartment. She wasn’t eating well, and with COVID restrictions we couldn’t get into her independent living facility to monitor her diet or her health. Worst of all, she would wander. Unable to recognize “home” and unable to convince anybody to come get her, she would set off by herself. Dad would realize she was missing and frantically try to find her. Fortunately for us, she always attempted her escapes when the night security guard was at his desk. But we were terrified that some evening she would get out while he was away, and she would roam out into the winter night. 

We knew that, without round the clock support, we couldn’t keep her safe in any of our homes either. So, we concluded that she needed to be placed in a secure memory care facility. I think it was one of the hardest decisions my family has ever faced. We researched. We consulted experts. We hired a placement agency. We came close to placing her in one home, then chickened out because we felt like the owner was pressuring us.  

Finally, we landed on what looked like the best facility for our needs. They specialized in memory care, and we were assured that the staff had been trained to care for people with dementia. They took notes about her diet, health, likes and dislikes. Most important, it was a secured facility. They knew that Mom wandered, and their secured doors and round the clock caregiver oversight seemed like the best way to keep her safe. It was the most expensive facility we had seen. But we figured her safety and well-being were worth it. 

On Jan. 12, Mom was found in that facility’s back yard. Frozen to death.  

She had let herself out through an unsecured exterior door, unnoticed and unimpeded, on a cold winter evening. No one realized she was missing until the next morning.  A health department investigator told me that she had been out there at least 12 hours. Which means caregivers over three shifts failed to recognize her absence. I’m told she was wearing thin pants, a short-sleeved shirt and socks. The overnight low was 20 degrees. 

We are devastated. Beyond devastated. Frankly, I don’t know that it has completely sunk in yet. I think the brain only lets in a little horror at a time. I re-read what I just wrote, and think “Wow, that would be a really horrible thing to happen to a loved one.” 

I debated what my first column after Mom’s death would look like. I have felt compelled, in social media, to celebrate the person my Mom was and the way she lived. To keep the memory alive of the truly amazing person she was. But I think I did it mostly to distract my mind from the horror of how she died. 

But I am feeling more compelled, in this moment, to tell the story of how she died. Because I think it needs to be told. Because others are struggling with the agonizing decision to place a parent in memory care. Because when we were doing our research, we would have wanted to know that these kind of things happen. 

I am not naming the facility here. It will be public knowledge when the Colorado Department of Health and Environment report is completed. From what I am told, they are horrified at what happened and are working very hard to make sure it never happens again.

My point here is much bigger. I am discovering the enormous problems we face in senior care, particularly in the era of COVID. I was told by someone in the industry that, since the facilities are locked down and families can’t get in to check on their loved ones, standards are slipping in many places. With no oversight, caregivers and managers are getting lazy. I was in regular communication with Mom’s house manager, and I raised flags every time I suspected a problem. But you can only ascertain so much in phone conversations with a dementia patient. 

Now, since her death, we have discovered that her nightly 2 a.m. bed check — a state mandated protocol — had only been done once in the ten days before her death. She could have disappeared on any of those nights, and no one would have realized it. 

I have wracked my brain, to figure out what we could have done differently. The facility had no previous infractions. Their reputation was stellar. Their people seemed very caring. Their web site would make you want to move in yourself. 

Knowing what I know now, I would have asked some very specific questions. How are the doors secured? Are they alarmed? Is the back yard accessible at night? Are bed checks actually done every night? Who checks the logs to confirm? 

I would check for infractions at the CDPHE web site. Then I would find out who owns the facility, and do some online stalking. Is this a person with a history of caring for the elderly, or just someone who has jumped into the very trendy, very profitable business of elder care? I am very concerned that, for many, this “business model” is built on maximizing profits by minimizing compensation for front line workers — the people actually caring for our loved ones. 

Dad is living with me now. We are not inclined to trust any facilities with his care. Watching him grieve has been heartbreaking. If you talk to him, do me a favor and don’t mention how she died. It’s hard enough to say good-bye to his wife of nearly 60 years, without having to grapple with this, too. 

I am, frankly, still in disbelief. I don’t know exactly where I am going from here. But I do know one thing. I want my Mom’s death to spur a closer look at the way we care for our vulnerable elderly. 

Because I don’t want what happened to my Mom to happen to another vulnerable elderly person again. Ever.