Death Comes

These days I am working as a spiritual companion to the residents of a nursing home in England. I accompany these elders in their day-to-day lives simply by being with them. Some of them are sick, many of them are dying. If they are able to speak we have a conversation. If they are not, we don’t. I hold their hands and feet. I read them books and newspapers. I tell stories and listen to theirs. I pray with them if they ask me or I pray in silence if there is nothing else to be done. It is an enormous privilege to share in and bear witness to a life in these quiet ways.

One of the residents died yesterday. I’ll call her Trinity. I had grown close to Trinity in the last three months since I began working in the home. She was an artist and we shared our love of visual art through conversations about painting and drawing. “My aim in life is to paint,” she told me when I asked her if she missed it. She was seriously ill and had lost the ability to use her hands in any real way and her mind was clouded by the drugs and by her poor condition.

Trinity told me that from her illness she had “learned about laughter, suffering and endurance.” I was speechless. It is not often that we hear people expressing this kind of unspoken gratitude for being sick and dying.

Yesterday, after one of the nurses told me Trinity had died, I went to her room to just sit for a while in the empty space and remember her and say good-bye. When I opened the door I saw that Trinity was still in the bed. I was shocked. I’d assumed the body had already been removed by the undertakers.

I have seen dead bodies before. It is the strangest sensation. The body is intact and yet the person is gone. At first Trinity seemed to be there still. It almost looked as though she was breathing. But then it was obvious: Trinity was no longer there. Where did she go? We do not know. The Great Mystery.

Now Trinity’s suffering has ended. And yet so has her life. A whole life that I know very little about. I only know that at the end of her life she had learned about laughter, suffering and endurance.

We did laugh together, Trinity and I. I did watch her suffer. And I did witness her enduring, day after day after day. There is meaning in this.

I am reminded of a piece of scripture that I have always liked. It helps me to remember that I am not the be-all and end-all of everything: “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14)

Make the most of it.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Am I aware of the sensation of being alive today? I will do my best to bring myself into full awareness of my Being.



Collective Grief

Dearest Readers,

Lately I’ve been blogging a lot about how we can reconcile the difficult, terrifying and atrocious things that happen in the world. As you’ve probably gathered, acceptance is one of the tools that I advocate. Using what I call The Spiritual Solution, or seeing the world from a Higher Perspective, is another.

Yesterday, after reading a short story about a young Irish girl who goes to live with her aunt and uncle for the summer, I remembered one more: balling your eyes out.

I’m not sure if the story moved me so deeply because it was about fathers and daughters or because it took place in Ireland, where I used to live, or because it was about running, which I used to do avidly as a young girl, or whether it was all of these things combined, but I got to the end and friggin’ lost it.

It occurred to me as I wept into the cloth napkin I was holding and tried to finish the bite of salad I’d just taken (I happened to be eating my lunch while reading the story) that I was also crying for the Haitians, the Chileans, my friend with metastasic cancer, and for all the suffering that goes on in the world every single day.

It felt good. To grieve. To feel. It’s tempting to numb out in the face of such deep pain because we’re essentially powerless to change what has happened in any given situation. Our only power lies in our response.

If our response is to take action to make changes in our own lives or support the changes in the lives of others it can sure help to have a good ol’ cry before we begin.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When was the last time I really felt the grief that is created in me through the world’s suffering? I will find a way to feel my feelings deeply so that I can move forward. I will shed a layer of sorrow to make room for hope.