This week, in the midst of a messy change from our long-term communications provider to another, something wonderful happened. Like a ray of sunshine, an email from Dolores Ganstine appeared in my inbox.

“Happy Happy Birthday Iris Hope you have a Wonderful day and year,” she wrote.

More than a decade ago, Dolores and her Casa Maria Guild invited me as their guest speaker for the Annual Spring Luncheon they host for Imlay City’s Maple Vista seniors.

There I met women who hold no agenda other than to lift the spirits of Maple Vista’s seniors with a delicious lunch, learn something new, and laugh at life’s ironies.

In 2019, Dolores called with a request to speak for their April 2020 Spring Luncheon. “Just tell us stories,” she said.

I was thrilled to accept.

On March 12, 2020, as the Guild’s president, Dolores, emailed to cancel their April luncheon. “We’re really worried about bringing the coronavirus to the Maple Vista seniors and each other,” she explained.

Although disappointed, I understood.

I struck my pen through “Maple Vista Luncheon” noted on my calendar. I would miss engaging with this wise, cheerful band of women.

Having witnessed the bountiful mercy and love the Guild members poured upon the seniors, I hoped their group would soon resume their ministry.

When the earth thawed last March, I walked into my gardens and forgot Dolores, her Guild, and Maple Vista. Out of sight, out of mind.

A year later, it’s beyond my understanding how people survived 2020 unharmed without a trowel in their hand and a patch of earth under their feet.

Statistics of increased depression amongst our elderly, and a twenty-five percent rise in teenage suicide, indicate a good portion of America has not escaped pandemic seclusion without injury and death.

These reports validate what I’ve learned from the births of my children to the deathbeds of my parents: affectionate touch sustains life and offers a gentle release from it.

We need a pair of loving eyes to welcome us into this world, guide us through it, and release us when God calls us home.

Dolores later emailed this sad news. “I have been meaning to let you know that our Maple Vista ladies guild has disbanded. Most of the ladies had been members for 20 years or longer, and because of the Covid we couldn’t go there or do anything for the seniors. So no more Casa Maria Ladies Guild after 42 years.”

I composed myself and phoned Dolores. “I’m sorry to hear about your guild.”

“We’re all in our late seventies and eighties. Younger women aren’t interested in the Guild like we were twenty years ago. My daughter and I are going to do something for the seniors on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day anyway.”

Dear Reader, I’m thankful for the perfect timing of Dolores’ ray of sunshine. The Past President of the former Casa Maria Guild does not hide her light under a bushel, or a pandemic.

Light. The perfect disinfectant.

Contact Iris at