a reserved and independent resident of the Alpha Omega House since summer of 2019, has quietly built herself a life of service and friendships therefrom here in Missoula, MT. You would never guess because she would never tell you, but Bethany has played an integral roll in the lives of many of our community members since her arrival.
With who might you ask? What could be the cause of such high praise?
Well… I won’t get ahead of the story.
Originally from Illinois, Bethany first came West in search of nothing in particular; objectively, to enroll in the Rocky Mountain School of Photography; metaphorically, to satisfy her burning and innate appetite for adventure.
Missoula’s impression didn’t fade with time after she returned home post-graduation, and eventually, it brought her back for a summer of work, which turned into a year of residency, and potentially a whole future, ready for the making.
THAT’S where our story begins.
Bethany moved into the Alpha Omega House upon the recommendation of a church member, a hope, and a prayer. A naturally introverted person, she didn’t know how well living in a house full of other young adults would blow over.
“I fought it for a while, but it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Bethany laughed when I asked about her year in the AO.
In the fall of 2019, as she began looking for ways to develop her photography, Bethany picked up a job working with a population for which she cares deeply and, at times, prefers to 20-year-olds: the elderly.
Home Instead hired more than just an employee when Bethany signed onto the job. They hired a friend, confidant, additional family member, and what would become a beacon of light for this at-risk community during the COVID pandemic.
“I’ve always had a huge heart for the elderly,” Bethany said in my conversation with her. In fact, she has tossed around ideas of serving this community by reconstructing stories and building end-of-life respect and appreciation through photography.
On the day of the shutdown, Bethany was serving seven clients in Missoula, soon to be eight.
“It was hard in the beginning,” Bethany said. Not only were the health practices rigorous (full PPE, intense sanitation, etc.), but Bethany, and all those like her, made the difficult decision to isolate themselves from family, friends, and loved ones for the safety of her clients.
“I didn’t want to isolate myself, but I couldn’t put my clients through that,” she said in reference to spreading the virus. “I don’t know what I would do if one of my clients got sick.”
Not many students remained in the AO House during spring break and for the rest of spring semester. But those that did, kept quarantine as lively and interesting as possible. Bethany, however, couldn’t enjoy such luxuries. She had to keep careful tabs on who was where and when, only using the kitchen and bathroom when they were empty of others, and spending most of her time in her room.
“It was breaking my bond with you girls and slowly wearing on me.”
Even so, it’s not something Bethany mentions without prompting. Several of her clients rely on Bethany alone as a caretaker, a detail that isn’t missed by her and certainly not by those she cares for. Although it was hard in more ways than one, Bethany spins perspectives and looks at situations through the lives of those she serves, day in and day out.
She even jokes about the small things. “I was happy that I was essential and got to be out while everyone else was stuck at home. That gave me a sense of freedom. But I could also wake up 10 minutes before my shift because no one was on the road!”
When asked how she stayed sane, she just smiled and shrugged, “Lots of movies I guess,” without hesitating to laugh at her joke, and say that the people make it worthwhile; she is just happy to take part in their lives.
One woman in particular has made herself quite at home in Bethany’s heart. With no family or other caretakers in Missoula, she and Bethany have developed a special friendship that epitomizes the role of caring for the elderly.
“Sometimes I just go over and say, ‘You don’t have to pay me, I help you because I love you and I want to help.’ She’s just a delight and a joy; she keeps me going.”
Bethany truly has a servant’s heart, always talking about the ways in which her clients have touched her life.
“I guess because I don’t have family here, my clients are my family.”
We can assuredly say that such positive ripples of love are reciprocal, not only between Bethany and her clients, but all those touched thereafter, including us at the Alpha Omega House. We are so proud and lucky to call Bethany our friend.
written by Sarah Griffin, former resident.