Guardian of My Soul

Guardian of my soul, thank you,
for guiding me in the dark places,
for reaching me through the people of my life,
 for drawing near to love me when I feel unlovable,
for teaching me how to tend my wounds,
for guarding me with words of truth
and moments of empowerment,
for allowing my pain and struggle
so that I can come to greater wholeness.

Guardian of my soul,
you are my Coach in the Cave,
my Voice in the Fog,
my Midwife of Wisdom.
I place my trust in you
as I give myself to the process
of learning from my darkness.

~ Joyce Rupp ~

Today’s Quote

I am blind and do not see the things of this world;
but when the light comes from Above,
it enlightens my Heart and I can see,
for the Eye of my Heart
sees everything
and through this vision
I can help my people.
The heart is a sanctuary
at the Center of which
there is a little space,
wherein the Great Spirit dwells,
and this is the Eye.
This is the Eye of Wakantanka
by which He sees all things,
and through which we see Him.

~ Black Elk ~

Forgiveness

Sometimes forgiving can be hard.
Sometimes something simply seems unforgivable.
It might help to remember to forgive is not to condone.
To forgive doesn’t mean to say that was okay.
Think of it this way –
carrying all that anger and resentment around
is a burden on you.
Couldn’t you do something better with all that energy?
Maybe you can start by saying
maybe someday I can forgive.
Try saying that to yourself
once a day for a while.
Create a little space for possibility.
Then someday that someday may come
and you will feel a lot lighter.

~ Kate Strasburg ~

My Very Dear Sarah…

Sullivan Ballou & Family

Sullivan Ballou & Family

The War Between the States (1861-1865), A Civil War Soldier and His Letter of Love

Born March 28, 1829 in Smithfield, R.I., Sullivan Ballou was educated at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.; Brown University in Providence, R.I. and the National Law School in Ballston, N.Y. He was admitted to the Rhode Island Bar in 1853.

Ballou devoted his brief life to public service. He was elected in 1854 as clerk of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, later serving as its speaker. He married Sarah Hart Shumway on October 15, 1855, and the following year saw the birth of their first child, Edgar. A second son, William, was born in 1859. Ballou immediately entered the military in 1861 after the war broke out. He became judge advocate of the Rhode Island militia.

He wrote this letter to his wife Sarah 152 years ago today…

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July 14, 1861
Camp Clark, Washington

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more . . .

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .

Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .

Sullivan

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Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the first Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861. He was 32 at the time of his death.

When he died, his wife was 24. She later moved to New Jersey to live out her life with her son, William, and never re-married. She died at age 80 in 1917. Sullivan and Sarah Ballou are buried next to each other at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, RI. There are no known living descendants.

Ironically, Sullivan Ballou’s letter was never mailed. Although Sarah would receive other, decidedly more upbeat letters, dated after the now-famous letter from the battlefield, the letter in question would be found among Sullivan Ballou’s effects when Gov. William Sprague of Rhode Island traveled to Virginia to retrieve the remains of his state’s sons who had fallen in battle.

Fail With Enthusiasm

i am.
you are.
we envision.
there is hope.
possibilities whisper.
in shortfall, there is still abundance.
in one expectation which was not met
there were other presentations of surprise.
let me look you in the eye and say this to you.
i see you.
i recognize in you wonder, enthusiasm and promise.
i smell the fragrance of possible greatness lingering over your shoulder.
i cannot see what you have not done –
however, what you may accomplish shines above you like first light.
such promise to wear upon your head.
let me look you in the eye and ask you,
“what do you long for?”
and
“will you change the world in some way today?”

~ Mary Anne Radmacher

You Are My Sunshine

empty wheelchair

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I arrived at the nursing home too late.

My position with hospice was in Loss & Bereavement; that is, to help terminally ill patients prepare for their death and to be available to the families before, during and after the loss of their loved one.

When anyone would ask what type of work I did, and I would answer “hospice,” the reaction was almost always the same – “Oh – I don’t know how you do it – I would never be able to…” With that, they would look down, words trailing off, sometimes physically stepping away from me. I understood.

But for me, being with someone approaching death is sacred ground. No filter, no mask, no falseness. Just that person stripped of everything the world deems important, yet at that moment, more genuine. More authentic. Unpretentious. Beautiful.

When I met Walt, he was a resident in a nursing home.  Patti, his aid, brought me to his private room to introduce me. He was in his mid-70s, thin gray hair in wisps around his almost bald head, eyes rimmed with dark circles, face sunken and pale. His wheelchair, placed close to a window, bathed him in sunshine. The photograph on his bureau showed a strikingly handsome man, tall and thin, with blonde hair, casually holding a golf club, looking off to the horizon, smiling. 

Now, his body was bent and misshapen, knees drawn up, fingers curled into fists held tight against his chest. His head was angled toward his right shoulder, his whole body ravaged by rheumatoid arthritis.  He showed no awareness when Patti introduced me and his eyes – a clear, bright blue that belied his age – never left a picture on the far wall.

“That’s his wife. She died a long time ago. They never had children.”

She was quite pretty, dressed in a uniform that a flight attendant might wear in the early years of commercial flying – perhaps Pan Am or TWA. The only other item on the wall was a handwritten 8×10 sheet with words to the song “You Are My Sunshine” written on it.

“That was their favorite song. They used to sing it to each other,” Patti explained.  “He can’t speak because of his stroke, but if he gets agitated, we sing it to him; it seems to calm him down.”

So began my relationship with Walt.  I would visit him twice a week – him in his red cardigan sweater, slumped in his wheelchair parked in the sunshine, me seated next to him.  I would read to him, talk to him, sometimes just sit with him, while he would look at his wife’s picture.  Once, when I hummed “You Are My Sunshine” and gently held his hand, I thought I saw the briefest of smiles, but then it vanished.  It was probably just wishful thinking on my part.  There never seemed to be any change in Walt’s disposition.

One week, our hospice team was particularly busy with new patient admissions and I was unable to make my Tuesday visit with Walt.  On Thursday afternoon, I stopped at the nurse’s station to sign in.  As I rounded the corner and headed to Walt’s room, I saw Patti coming toward me, her face drawn and tired.

“Walt took a turn for the worse this morning,” she said softly.  “He died, not more than five minutes ago.”  She stepped aside so I could enter the room.

I stopped.  Walt’s wheelchair was by the window, empty.  I’d never seen him anywhere but in his wheelchair.  I looked around, searching for something – anything – familiar. My eyes finally found Walt, lying on his twin bed, facing the wall.

I stood at the foot of his bed and said a prayer, but it didn’t feel like enough.  I moved the foot of the bed away from the wall and knelt where I could see Walt’s face.  His eyes were closed, his wrinkles smoothed out; he looked like he was peacefully at sleep.  I reached out and clasped his hand, my fingers gently intertwined in his.

My eyes were drawn to the photo of Walt on the golf course and the one of his lovely wife when she was a flight attendant.  I closed my eyes.  As if watching a movie, I saw Walt – young, handsome, smiling – get up easily from the bed and walk towards a beautiful young woman dressed in blue.  They stood facing each other, holding hands. Staring at each other.  Smiling at each other.  Loving each other.

With carefree laughter and beaming smiles, they turned and walked away, hand in hand, bathed in golden light.  They were together again, as one.

As I looked down at our hands and smiled through my tears, I began to sing.

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Good-bye, Walt. Thank you for the privilege of spending time with you. Go, now – happy, whole, healthy – and rest in peace.

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Lessons Learned From the Blogosphere

Life has a way of upending my plans. I plan, God laughs. He/She has a great sense of humor.

“So, Theresa – you still think you’re in control??? A woman of your intelligence – maturity – competence??? [Sorry – I got carried away a bit; at least the maturity, in an age-related sense, is true.] We’ll just see about that…”

Up pops an unexpected health issue – the proverbial “wake-up call” – and I make the heart-wrenching decision to step aside from my full-time position and, as my son so bluntly suggested (he gets that being direct stuff from his Mom), “Take care of your son and husband for a while.” [FYI – they are both consenting adults, but point well taken.] “You always put everybody else first; now it’s time to give some of that compassion to yourself and to us.”

How did he get so smart? It’s hard to argue with someone who is being logical and quite reasonable. A parent lives for the day that he or she hears actual adult-speak from their child, but when it happens, and it makes sense, wow – can it ever hurt!!!

So what do you do with someone who is used to going 24/7, being present for others, listening and offering guidance, teaching, community outreach, training staff, developing new programs, hiring, budgeting, attending meetings, being on committees…etc., etc.??? [As an aside: please don’t suggest cooking or cleaning – I’m not the domestic type, nor do I have any desire to learn.] When the recommendations from experienced medical professionals and concerned family/friends are to reduce stressors and use all this free time for some R & R, that is almost an impossible challenge for someone with my personality. My husband telling me that most people would do anything to not have to work for a while, and to just take care of themselves, makes no sense to me.  The fact that I’m not contributing to the Gross National Product only adds more stress to my life.

So, what to do?

Again, advice from my 27-year old son. “Mom – you’ve always loved to write. You’re so good at it (was that a compliment from my child???). Think of how many people you can reach with a blog compared to 6 or 8 students/patients/clients a day? What a great opportunity! You’ll be able to (hopefully) inspire people and still take care of yourself at the same time.”

Out of the mouths of babes…

So here I am, not quite 5 months later, with 156 followers (Thank you to all of you who seem to have found something worthwhile in my posts!) and visits from 44 different countries. [My beloved son reminds me weekly this isn’t a competition.]

This new world, to me, is astounding!!!

Where else can I speak to or read about or cry with people from other countries and other cultures without ever having met them?

Where else can I view photos (and very, very good ones, at that!) of hills and meadows, festivals and country markets, colorful flowers and exotic animals, mountain peaks and crashing oceans?

Where else can I read about feeding hyenas in Ethiopia or visit a fashion house in Paris or a tiny market on the streets of Pakistan?

Or see the purple flowers against the gray stone of a chapel (thanks, MM) just because I mentioned it, or experience the Northern Lights in Norway or read about the politics of Croatia or the struggle for freedom in Egypt as they happen?

Or get tips on how to take care of elderly pets or teach a cat how to walk on a leash or get a recipe for soup from Singapore or discuss photography with a retiree in Hong Kong?

I’ve offered prayers to people struggling with cancer, sobriety, paralysis, depression and all kinds of loss; exchanged hopeful thoughts in the quiet early morning hours when sleep was elusive; read poetry by young adults in India, Spain and Romania (thank goodness for Google Translate!) who feel the same things as the rest of us, no matter our age or geographic location; read about different faith traditions practiced in so many parts of the world; and shared my own thoughts about people, with people and for people across the globe.

Ask me about how Mumbai’s skyline glitters at night or how Islamabad looks draped in a sunset or how the colors of a New Zealand autumn blaze and pop or how the light falls in sacred shadows across an abandoned church in Scotland.

Or how cheetah hunt or elephants grieve or eagles mate or dolphins swim or butterflies migrate.

Or how people the world over hate war, how they cry for the same reasons, laugh at silly jokes, help those in need, share food and water when they have little, offer hope when others have none, speak volumes without words in their photographs, allow us to visit inside their homes and hearts, show us their children and plans for the future.

We are different; we are the same.

We share stories; we share ourselves.

We reach out; we touch hearts and hands.

We speak in different languages; we speak the same.

We harbor faith not confined by religion.

We believe and we dream.

We inspire and we offer hope.

We are present and never alone.

We are connected.

We are One.

We shall bring peace.

Hands

I am grateful.
I am blessed beyond measure.
My thanks…
~ Theresa

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The Portrait of Our Lives

O Beauty ever ancient, ever new!
You are the designer of the portrait of our lives.
Each of us is an original work of art.
We have come from the kiln of your hand –
unique, beautiful and good, yet unfinished.
 Our “unfinishedness” is your way of asking us
 to be partners in our own creation.
In the living of our lives,
 some of the pieces of our mosaic have been marred.
Some are slightly flawed.
This wound in us may have taken place
because of our weakness or it may have happened
because of someone else’s poor vision.

Remind us, dear Mender of Lives,
that even the pieces you want to rip out
and throw away, you accept.
Not only do you accept them,
you cherish them.
 You reveal to us ever so gently
that they are part of the fabric of our lives.
 They have a right to be there.

Help us to look at each person as a work of art.
Be in our seeing that we may gaze upon ourselves
and one another with the eyes of an artist.
 Teach us to behold rather than merely to look at one another.
In our beholding we will begin to understand
that the shadows, the rough places,
the many colors and experiences
are all part of the beauty of the mosaic.

Just as you have not turned away from us,
never let us turn away from the beauty of our lives.

~ Macrina Wiederkehr ~
“Gold in Your Memories”

Our Worst Fear

Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate,
our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness,
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
 “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
 Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God;
your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some of us,
it is in everyone,
and as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission
to do the same.
 As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

~ Marianne Williamson~