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.



Hold On Possibilities Exist

I’ve just finished reading my friend Leanne Coppen’s blog about living with breast cancer (I’ve written about her before) and her tagline at the bottom of today’s post is “hope”.

Oh, goody, Hope is one of my favourite topics.

I have a Buddhist friend who likes to say, “No hope, no fear, I am free.”

But I like having hope. The above statement, for me, speaks more to the a state of hoping for something, which, indeed, can feel like the opposite of freedom.

I believe Hope is less a state of being than a belief system in and of itself.

Hope is necessary for our survival. Hope gives us a reason to keep on going.

Hope is not about wanting something to happen but about believing in the possibility of anything and everything.

People survive cancer. There is Hope.

Addicts do recover. There is Hope.

Gay rights exist where they didn’t before. Hope.

The human race continues to evolve. We’re figuring it out as we go along. We get it wrong often but history has shown we eventually get it right. There is hope for the future.

In my angry teenage years I was almost afraid to hope. “We’re born, we live, we die, who cares?”

Without hope, I reasoned, I am safe.

This reasoning was born of fear. I was afraid to have hope. If I had hope and something bad happened, then what? Better to have no hope at all.

Can we still believe in Hope when “bad” things happen? We must.

It takes great courage to believe in something as powerful as Hope when things go “wrong”. Hope requires Trust.

When things do not go according to how we think they ought, we must remember that the end of the story has not yet been told. Things are working themselves out. H.O.P.E

Hold On Possibilities Exist.

Inspiring Message of the Day: We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Bigger Picture

Would you believe I woke up 30 seconds before the cat pounced on me in anticipation of the rude awakening?

Sometimes we know things before they happen.

How does that work?

Last night I went into the local Correctional Facility to talk to a group of female inmates about what life could be like for them if they stopped drinking.

There were eight women there and they were all (perhaps save one — though she looked it) First Nations.

I was reminded of Steve Earle’s song “Billy Austin” in which Billy describes the men in his prison as “mostly black, and brown and poor.”

All of these women were brown and poverty was something they had no doubt all experienced. All of them were there because of crimes committed under the influence of alcohol.

We were talking about the “spiritual experience” of noticing the world around us, seeing the bigger picture, connecting to a higher sense of being through nature; tuning in to the colour of the sky, the texture of the grass, the birds flying above.

By the end of our session there was hope in the room.

Inspiring Message for the Day: When we take the time to think about how a tree can grow from a tiny seed, how the earth spins around the sun, how we can know things before they happen, we are connecting to the Life Force Energy of the Universe, and we can overcome hopelessness.