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.



Cry Me a River

Dearest Readers,

In 1987, the great movie director James L. Brooks made a film called Broadcast News. It was a huge hit, making Holly Hunter a star and a whole lot of film-goers laugh and cry at the same time. If you haven’t seen it, try and find it. It’s so good.

One thing I always remember from the movie is that Holly Hunter’s character cries every single day. Not just a few tears but buckets of them, snotty, hysterical tears requiring huge wads of Kleenex.

At first, the viewer thinks something is wrong. Something terrible has happened to her. But as the story progresses we realize that this is a regular occurrence for the character. Bawling her eyes out is a part of her normal routine.

At the time, I remember thinking I could stand to do the same thing on a regular basis myself. It seemed like such a good way to release pressure, relieve stress, and truly connect to the profound grief that comes from living in a world where suffering is all around us.

I was never a big cryer. Somewhere along the line I developed the belief system that crying meant I was weak or incapable of handling stuff. So I stuffed my tears. The only time I could really cry the buckets of snot was after a I’d consumed a bucket of wine.

When I started walking the healing path, the road to well-being and recovery from the Old BS (Old Belief Systems), a wise woman told me that crying is healing. “Every time you cry,” she said, “You are healing a little piece of your wound.”

After that I was like, bring it on! If crying healed my wound then let the river flow! I began to welcome tears and even look for opportunities to release them. I have had many, many good cries since and, as a result, done some very deep healing work.

Yesterday I had a really good cry. Just what I needed. I was in a public setting, mind you one where I could still be in my own space, but no doubt some may have wondered what was wrong with me. If anyone had asked I could honestly have said, “Nothing.”

It’s been a great lesson to learn. Nothing has to be “wrong” for me to have a mini-nervous breakdown (one of my sisters and I call it the MNBD). All is well at the moment. My life is really fantastic. I’m loving the work I’m doing, I have plenty of support, I’m in good health. So much to be thankful for!

But I see and I feel the suffering around me. I open the paper, turn on the radio and there’s more pain than I can bear sometimes. I empathize with loneliness, I fear death will come too soon, I understand what it means to be hurt. I’m human. And to be truly human means to feel deeply both the joy and the grief of living.

So every once in a while I need to express all of that, the profound richness of being, by having a MNBD. Open the floodgates and let the dam break. It’s a relief to do so and a very healing practice.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I do not have to be “strong” and hold in my tears. Strength will come through letting them flow. Feeling the grief means freeing it from our bodies. I will feel it and let it go.