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.



What Goes Up…

Dearest Readers,

I posted a new video to YouTube this morning. Here is the story for you:

Once upon a time there was a little girl with a fiery temper and a wondering spirit.

In springtime, in the year she would turn 8 years old, she moved with her family from a small town in the far north to a big city in the southeast.

From one day to the next, the little girl’s world became very big. And the relative safety she had known and only known was now replaced by the possibility of danger.

The danger of strangers.

Bad men, lost men, who snatch little girls and hurt them, rip their innocence away, use and abuse them. This was the danger of a grown-up world, a world of fear and of hatred, of judgment and of pain. The little girl came to know this world, this danger, first hand. And it changed her.

So the little girl grew up (because she had to) and lived in the world with a wounded heart.

Harder and harder she developed her shell and scared and more scared she became her heart getting smaller and smaller but you could not see it shrinking oh no for she had become an actress extraordinaire.

An actress in the drama of her own life.

And the drama was dark as dark can be. For she began to seek refuge in the Destroyer, the destructive abyss, the kiss of death.

The kiss of the highest of highs brought on by the lowest of lows. The kiss of bad men, lost men, to whom she’d now willingly give her heart, using and abusing, confusing pleasure and pain.

But the little girl kept growing (because she had to) and miraculously her wondering spirit grew, too.

It grew stronger and stronger, weakening her shell, cracking it open, easing her wound, healing it, and carrying her because she could not carry herself alone.

And as her spirit lifted and soared she became a traveler, roaming the earth far and wide, encountering people and stories and writing stories of her own.

On one particular journey she found herself in a little village by the Sea.

She decided to go for a walk and because her spirits now had high high hopes, she liked to climb high high up on her walks.

So she chose the most difficult route. And she climbed and she scrambled up the hardest, most challenging path and just by the skin of her teeth made it to the top.

But now she had to get back down.

“Surely there had to be an easier way back down,” thought the little girl (who was now a woman). But she could not find one and so she continued on, trusting that eventually she would discover a simpler way back down to the road.

Soon she came upon a fence.

“A-ha”, she said. “If someone built a fence all the way up here, they had to have begun to build the fence all the way down there.”

And so she followed the fence down the hill.

This proved to be an excellent idea until she hit the patch of gorse. Gorse is a yellow-flowered shrub that grows in dense patches as tall as the tallest man and as thick as a bear’s coat. Gorse leaves form spines, needle-like spikes, sharp and menacing.

“I must get down to the flat,” said the little girl (who was now an anxious woman), and she began to make her way through the gorse patch, weaving and threading between the shrubs.

Soon the gorse became so thick that she was forced to the ground, where the bush was thin enough to form a crawl space.

She lay on her back, completely surrounded by spiked branches, the flowers creating a soft yellow glow around her.

To continue on seemed impossible. Yet she had made so much progress, she had come so far down the hill, that to go back up seemed like defeat.

“Perhaps defeat is not so bad,” she thought. “Perhaps defeat is better than being torn to shreds by the spikes.”

So she crawled back up. Through and through the gorse patch until she was out, back where she’d started, back at the top of the hill.

She walked on. Soon she saw a grove of trees. “Trees are easier than gorse,” she thought, and entered the thicket.

There before her was a path. A wide-open tunnel of trees shadowy green switching back and forth all the way down to the road.

The little girl (who was now a very grateful woman) knew from her life experience that sometimes we have to go all the way down to the bottom to find our way back to the top.

But what she had not known and what she learned on that day is that sometimes we have to go all the way back up to the top to get down to the bottom.

Inspiring Message of the Day: