Today’s Quote

For a long time it had seemed to me
that life was about to begin – real life.
But there was always some obstacle in the way,
something to be gotten through first,
some unfinished business,
time still to be served,
a debt to be paid.
Then, life would begin.
At last it dawned on me
that these obstacles were my life.

~ Alfred D. Souza

A Blessing of Solitude

A Blessing of Solitude
by John O’Donohue

May you recognize in your life the presence, power and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone,
that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you
intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique,
that you have a special destiny here,
that behind the facade of your life there is something
beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride,
and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.


The Last Good-bye

Ira Byock, M.D., a nationally recognized authority in end-of-life care, says there are only four things left to say that matter most at life’s end (indeed, while living as well):

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

These words have the power to transform relationships, whether to heal connections at the end of life, or during day-to-day living.

As you know from several of my earlier posts (Dancing with Chopin, You are My Sunshine), my past work in Hospice was a profoundly moving part of my life journey, a vocation to which I hope to return.

I was called to a nursing home to be with with Mary and her family as she entered the final stage of life known as “active dying.” It was only a matter of a few days. Cancer had ravaged her middle-aged body to the point that she looked much older than her years. Mary was kept sedated most of the time because of the constant pain, only occasionally coming out of it to become partially aware of her surroundings.

Mary was a widow with two children, both in their mid-thirties – a daughter who lived in North Carolina and a son who lived at home to care for his surviving parent. Mother and daughter had a falling out some years ago, and their relationship was strained at best. Mother and son were close, and Tom was always at his mother’s bedside. The most time away was perhaps 5 minutes for a bathroom and coffee break. Without a family of his own, Tom was devoted to his mother. The staff told me that for the past 6 weeks, he had never missed an 18 hour day at his mother’s bedside; they often had to force him to go home for some rest.

As hours stretched into days, Mary’s coma deepened and her body temperature rose, her moments of lucidity few and far between. The attending physician noted that Mary’s core temperature was 108 degrees; he had never seen a person live with a temperature that high. For days, I watched Tom talk to his mother, telling her how much he loved her and how he knew she could beat this cancer. Mary’s doctors had explained to Tom that her organs were shutting down – her death was imminent; his head understood the facts, but his heart could not – would not – accept them. She was suffering and I found myself wondering why she was hanging on to life when she was in so much pain.

I gestured for Tom to join me in the hall.

“You need to tell your mother that it is alright for her to go,” I counseled gently. “That you’ll be okay here without her…”

He pulled back, shocked and a little angry. I was asking him to give his mother permission to die; the person he loved more than anyone in the world, the person he needed more than anyone in the world. It went against every feeling of normalcy, safety and love that coursed through him. He couldn’t find words.

“Your mother is suffering. I know you want her to be with you forever, but her body just can’t do it anymore. She needs to hear that you’ll be okay after she’s gone.” I paused. “Does your sister know just how sick your mother is?”

Tom explained that he had called her 2 weeks ago, but heard nothing since. She wasn’t even planning to come to see their mother one last time.

So that was the reason Mary struggled to stay; she needed to hear from her children – both of them – that they would be okay. Only then could she drift away, finally at peace.

“Tom – please give me your sister’s phone number. It’s essential that your mother hear her daughter’s voice. Would you like me to call her?”

He nodded his head, eyes filled with tears, then turned to go back into his mother’s room. Changing his mind, he instead went through the door marked “exit” and ran out of the building.

While I stood looking at the door, hoping to see Tom, one of Mary’s nurses came by. I told her what happened. She was as surprised as I; Tom was never absent from his mother’s side, let alone in her last few hours. She left to get the daughter’s phone number.

Anna, Mary’s daughter in North Carolina, answered on the second ring. I introduced myself, told her I was at the nursing home with Mary and advised her of the doctor’s prognosis. If Anna wanted to say good-bye, it had to be now. Her answer was crying on the other end of the line, and in her tears, I could hear regret, shock, fear. And love…I could hear love.

I explained that Anna didn’t have time to get here from North Carolina, but that I would hold the phone to Mary’s ear so that her mother could hear her voice. Even in a coma, hearing is the last sense to leave, so I felt certain that whatever Anna wanted to say to her mother, it would be heard and accepted. I told her Mary was suffering and needed Anna’s permission to die.

As I held the phone to Mary’s ear, I could hear Anna’s voice cloaked in tears. As Anna continued, Mary’s eyes remained closed, but her body visibly relaxed. At one point, I saw her lips turn up the tiniest bit, and I knew Anna had been understood. After a few minutes, I softly told Mary that I was taking away the phone. Then I spoke to Anna and described what I had seen, telling her that she had given her mother a wonderful gift and blessing. I thanked her and promised that Tom would call her in a while.

Out in the hallway, there was no sign of Tom. I went to the nurse’s station for his phone number. No answer, so I left a voice mail. Fifteen minutes later, another voice mail, asking that he please return to the nursing home. I went to sit with Mary and noticed that her right hand kept grasping the sheet into a tight knot. As I held her other hand, I explained that Tom had to leave but that he would be back.

Please, I prayed silently, please bring Tom back. In my heart, I begged Tom to return because this time, his mother needed him.

After a half hour passed, I looked up to see Tom in the doorway. He looked exhausted but determined as he entered the room. He leaned over Mary and whispered in her ear, tears streaming down his face as he clutched her hands to his heart. Her agitation disappeared as he continued, his words known only to mother and son. Finally, totally spent, Tom laid his head on their joined hands and closed his eyes.

I leaned against the wall in a shadowed corner of the room, listening to Mary’s breathing grow more labored. The intervals between breaths grew longer, until after one long exhalation, the room stilled, the only sound Tom’s choking sobs. It was over.

As the physician pronounced Mary’s time of death, I reached out to touch Tom’s shoulder in communion with his grief.

An ending and a beginning. Sacred Ground. Holy Words.

Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
I love you.

I offer these words up to my friends and relatives; indeed, to humankind.

But most especially to Mom and Dad, to whom I should have said all of these things while they were alive.

Please do the same, today.

Honor the Circles of Grace all around us.

A Few Thoughts on First Responders

Let’s hear it for first responders in the United States of America.

Whether you’re being airlifted from rising flood waters, getting rescued from a burning building, being rushed to the hospital with excruciating chest pain, slowly being extricated from your mangled car with the Jaws of Life, being rushed to safety from a hostage situation, shielded from a shooter – you are relieved and grateful to hear the welcome police sirens, fire truck horns, helicopter blades or racing footsteps.

Thank goodness – they’re here – everything will be all right – I’m safe.

These are the selfless individuals who go toward danger rather than away from it, who save lives while risking their own.

We’ve come to expect them to arrive in force, like the Calvary – in the nick of time, never afraid or tired or sick or hung over; never preoccupied or moving slow or sleeping in or ignoring the call.

Indeed, some disasters can be identified simply by an iconic photo of first responders:

We expect them to be there and to work tirelessly until the job is done, whether one hour, one day, one month or one year. In wildfires, firefighters might work to save our homes while theirs might be burning down. After a tornado, they might be searching for survivors through the debris while their own home has been demolished. We get back to our own broken lives while they work until their duty is finished.

When they finally have time to breathe, and to return to their families for hugs, food and sleep, that’s when the crushingly difficult part begins. Their sympathetic nervous system, having been hypervigilent for so long, is overly stressed, unable to relax.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is not only suffered by victims of traumatic events. Feelings of guilt or failure, insomnia, intrusive images, recurrent nightmares, irritability, hyperarousal, stomach-aches, headaches, difficulty concentrating, emotional withdrawal, flashbacks – all these, and more, could plague the first responders for months or even years.

What was it like for the police, EMTs and fire department personnel to view the carnage upon entering the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT? Or for the physicians and related health care personnel at the hospital to wait for the injured children who never came? Or for the coroner to perform autopsies on 20 innocent first graders?

You can replace Newtown with Oklahoma City, Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Sandy, 9/11 (WTC, the Pentagon, Shanksville), any war, the Boston Marathon…

Their souls must be bruised.

Perhaps haunted by these experiences, these images, they will run into the chaos and destruction anyway. For you, for me, for anyone in need.

They give tirelessly of themselves, day in, day out, with little recognition, because “they’re only doing their jobs.” Those jobs are demanding, draining, debilitating. But they do them, regardless.

So who cares for the caregivers?

In honoring them here, by recognizing their tremendous worth, I hope to do my part in helping each soul to heal. Perhaps you might find your own way to do the same.

Light in the midst of darkness. Hope in the midst of despair. Love in the midst of hate.

My blessings. My respect. My gratitude.

Once again – Holiness – Sacred Ground – Circles of Compassionate Grace.

Today’s Quote

When we come in contact with the other person,
our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion,
even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept.
We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love
is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh


I am sending out humble gratitude and blessings to “I Have a Voice” (girlwiththepen1118) for nominating me for the above three awards.

My intention with this blog when I began it less than 2 months ago (after having read 2 books on blogging, I’m still trying to figure it out) was to share stories of people whom I’ve met in my life who have touched me in some deep, elemental way – the people you carry with you in your heart long after meeting them.  I thought a blog would be a way to honor them, as well as to perhaps inspire others to remember that no matter how small a thing they might do for another person, it might actually be something of great importance, enough to change a life.  We human beings have a great capacity to love and to reach out, most especially in the midst of darkness.

I also wanted to include quotes that hold meaning for me, that inspire me, as well as some of my travels that have helped me along in my spiritual growth.  As I’ve said in my blog, I am a work in progress…

With apologies that I may not be able to exactly follow the rules of nominating 15 other bloggers – since I’m still getting to know them as a follower on my own – I’ve listed those below to whom I am passing on the “Shine On” Award for their having given me something wonderful on any given day – whether thoughts or poems or videos or photographs.  Some of them may already have an award, but regardless, they deserve either another one, or the same one again as validation of their value.

Word Press Shine On Award


Fun Girls Live Better

Jon Lilley


5 Kids with Disabilities

Sophia’s Voice

The CoF

Simple. Interesting.

John Coyote

Thoughts Alone

The Positivity Blog

Finally, I believe for one of the awards, I am to tell you all 7 things about myself.  Here goes:

1) I changed careers in my late 40s and it was the best thing I ever did.

2) My favorite color is purple.

3) If I could choose my last meal, it would be some type of pasta.

4) I believe that nothing is random.

5) I’m a U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) history nut, especially on the topics of medicine and women.

6) I have visited over 15 countries (not counting islands in the Caribbean), and that’s not nearly enough.

7) I love castles – the military fortress type, not the palaces type (there goes the military history again).

The Wheel of Life

The Wheel of Life

by Elisabeth Kubler Ross

“The Mouse”
(early years)

The mouse enjoys getting in and out of everything, is
lively and mischievous, is always ahead of the others.

“The Bear”
(early middle years)

The bear is very comfortable and loves to hibernate. It looks back
at the early years and chuckles at the mouse as it runs around.

“The Buffalo”
(late middle years)

The buffalo loves to roam the prairies. It reviews
life in a comfortable setting and is looking forward
to lifting the heavy load and becoming an eagle.

“The Eagle”
(later years)

The eagle loves to soar high above the world, not to look
down on people, but in order to encourage them to look up.