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.



Gratitude and Gosh Almighty

Dearest Readers,

Thanks for being my virtual coach yesterday. Because of the commitment I made on the blog I managed to write the story I’m going to tell tomorrow night for World Storytelling Day. It took me all day but I did it!

Now I just have to “learn” it.


Today’s Inspiring Message of the Day is totally unrelated to the above post but it is completely marvelous nonetheless and has filled my morning with wonder and awe, which are truly inspiring states of being:

Did you know that a blue whale’s tongue is the size of an elephant?!

Crash the Pity Party

Dearest Readers,

My world has become very small in the last week because I’ve been in a recording studio every day co-producing an anthem for the Big O project. I’ve heard clips of news from the outside world but have not been really engaged in what’s happening.

I knew there’d been an earthquake in Haiti but it took reading my friend Leanne Coppen’s Living with Breast Cancer blog to actually Google and follow the story.

So I just learned that 3 million out of Haiti’s 10 million people are right now without access to basic amenities like food, water, shelter and electricity. Three million. That’s about the size of Toronto proper. Can you imagine that entire city’s core in such a state?

How can I, on the other side of the world, living my tiny little life, doing my great big art project, respond to this in any kind of meaningful way?

Ignoring it is one reaction. “Oh, I can’t do anything about it so, oh well.”

Guilt is another. “Well, I can feel bad for what I have, at least.”

I can send money. “It’s the least I can do.”

Or I can practice gratitude and rejoice in my life today. I’m alive. I get to live another day. I can take that in, deeply, and not take it for granted like I do most days. I can turn today into the fullest possible celebration of living by being thankful.

If you read Leanne’s post you’ll see that she has found a way to be grateful in the face of devastating circumstances. She crashes her own pity party by looking at what she has, not what she has not. This is the most inspiring message of all, anytime, anywhere.

Leanne’s post reminded me that I have to count my blessings. When my life becomes so insular that all I’m thinking about is my stuff, I can’t see the forest for the trees. I’ve become self-centred. I am blind to all that I have been given and I often focus on what’s wrong rather that what is right.

I need to be reminded pretty much constantly to remove myself from the centre of the Universe, to step back and look at the whole picture, and remember that I am a part of the whole but not the whole part.

It’s pretty easy to practice gratitude when I’ve got my basic amenities covered and I don’t have stage four breast cancer. What about when the quake/cancer hits, when the rubble/chemo buries everything? When we are stripped of all that we hold dear? For what then can we be thankful? Leanne reminds us that it’s still possible to find something and rejoice in it.

Rough count of blessings? About 3 million.

Inspiring Message of the Day: My way of giving back is to be grateful. To enjoy this day and live it, fully, as thought it were my last.

Thanks To You

Dearest Readers,

It’s been a full week beginning with a circus-like video shoot, ramping up with the arrival of the guest choreographer on our Olympic show team and peaking with a 60-kid audition process.

Cut to the arrival of the guest composer for the project and a 2-hour studio session to plan the upcoming week. Forecast: record our Yukon Anthem with a myriad of singers and shoot the music video in an historic location.

Needless to say, I’m a little tired. But tired rhymes with inspired and that I am, too.

I’m inspired by the number of talented people we have in this little corner of the world; by the guest artists who actually want to come here in the dark, cold month of January; by the willingness of others to wholeheartedly commit their time and creative energy; and by the heaps of gratitude people have been sharing with me along the way.

When I get tired it can become difficult to see all of these wonderful things. Fatigue can cloud the brightest picture. It’s important for me to take the time to recognize the good, the positive, the joy. And it’s important to take naps!

Inspiring Message of the Day: Once again, this blog and you readers come to my rescue. Today’s post has given me yet another opportunity to see clearly all that I have to celebrate. Thank you for being there!

Attitude of Gratitude

I’m in the middle of a 2-day video shoot for a project I’m working on for the 2010 Olympics and I’d like to use this blog today to express my gratitude.

I and a 3-person crew drove around Whitehorse yesterday interviewing Yukoners of all different ages and cultural backgrounds about what it means for them to live in this magnificent place. It was a mild day, thanks weather gods, and the sun even came out in the afternoon, giving us warmth and great lighting options. All went very smoothly.

One of the people I interviewed was a First Nations Elder, a man who is greatly respected by his own people as well as the larger community. He grew up in a small northern village where traditional ways are still practiced and though he likes Whitehorse he says living here makes him lazy.

“I can pick up the phone and someone will bring food to my house,” he said, chuckling. For a man who grew up living off the land, the “Delivery” option was a luxury that deprived him of exercise and outdoor activity.

When I asked him to sum up his experience of living in the Yukon in one word he said, “Gratitude.”

According to the dictionary on this computer, “gratitude” means “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

To show appreciation for kindness and to return kindness.

The kindness I experienced yesterday was extraordinary. So many people willing, despite their reservations about being in front of a camera, to give. In turn, I was able to give back through kindness by being patient, enjoying their presence and encouraging their individual answers.

What gifts! The words “thank-you” fall short.

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I am full of readiness to show my appreciation for kindness and to return it, the gift of gratitude enriches my life. Thankfulness breeds joy.