Letting Yourself Be Loved

While working in hospice, I was fortunate enough to come across a valuable resource by Michael Stillwater and Gary Malkin entitled “Graceful Passages: A Companion for Living and Dying.” The book and 2-CD set has become a part of me, its 12 different messages a balm for my spirit. I have already shared my favorite, “Walk On,” and would like to share another beautiful selection.

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Letting Yourself Be Loved
by Lew Epstein

No one has ever prepared us for this experience.
We think it’s the end – no.
It’s another beginning.
It’s knowing that you’re loved, knowing that you’re loved.
It’s not easy, letting yourself be loved —
because we’ve learned to judge ourselves —
we’re always judging ourselves.

But I learned to listen that I was loved.
I was loved!
And then I would forget that I was loved.
Those were the most painful times for me —
forgetting that I was loved.

So you’ve let yourself be loved while you’ve been here.
And you’ve judged yourself.
And you’ve forgotten that you were loved.
And you became alone…but you will always be here.

You are blessed. You are forgiven. You are an angel.

You have to listen that you’re loved and you have to forgive all the time.
Listen that you’re loved and forgive, all the time.
You are love.

Farewell my son.
Farewell my daughter.
Farewell my father.
Farewell my mother.
Farewell my sister.
Farewell my brother.

Thank you for letting me love you.
Thank you for letting yourself be loved.
God bless you.

Lew Epstein, whose loving words live on in the hearts of all who hear them,
made his graceful passage on March 28, 2003.

Dawn

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Love is Forever

Love is Forever
by Kate Strasburg

Life is good…
But sometimes…
the sun disappears behind the clouds.
The wind comes up…
and the rain comes down,
and life becomes hard,
and you become sad…
You may be afraid
of losing someone you love.
or you may have lost someone you love…
Or you may be sick yourself
and afraid.
What you need to remember,
then and always
is that love is stronger than everything:
stronger than sickness…
stronger than death…
Once you have been loved,
that love will always be with you.
You will never be alone.

Of Ladybugs and Dragonflies…and Love

There are signs.

Signs of our departed loved ones telling us all will be well and that there is life after death, if we only have the faith and willingness to believe.

For Mom, it’s a ladybug. ladybug

When she died 25 years ago from breast cancer at the age of 59, (see “Remembrance”), Mom left behind a husband, 2 daughters and 3 grandsons. Speaking for myself, her “baby,” I was in total shock, having spent the entire month of February driving to the hospital after work and watching her suffer. After her death, I was totally drained physically, emotionally and spiritually.

One of the first things we did as a family without Mom was to drive 8 hours to my best friend’s wedding in North Carolina, the wedding that Mom promised to bake her delicious Italian cookies for (what is a wedding without countless trays laden with homemade cookies made from recipes handed down through the generations?). Needless to say, my family was happy for my friend who called my Mom and Dad her “adopted parents,” but the absence of Mom was a raw ache, an emptiness, a longing that went unfulfilled.

During a rest stop, Dad, my sister and I stood stretching our legs before getting back into the car for the long ride home. As we spoke about how much we missed Mom, a ladybug landed on Dad’s shoulder.

Mom had always loved ladybugs; if one was inside the house, she would bring it outside and place it gently on a flower. If one landed on her, she would simply let it stay put until it flew away. Mom knew that ladybugs were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and had been called the “Beetle of Our Lady,” its name linking itself to spiritual ideals and mothers. To her, that sent a powerful message of devotion and love.

A ladybug on Dad’s shoulder…while we were talking about Mom…at our first outing as a family without her. Each of us looked at the ladybug, looked at each other, and without saying a word, started to cry. Somehow Mom found a way to let us know that she was with us.

Ever since then, in the past 25 years, ladybugs have visited my Dad, sister and me when we most needed the comfort. Dad would call us up on Mom’s birthday and mention that a ladybug was on his morning newspaper, or in the bathroom during the Christmas holidays – Mom’s favorite time of year – when he most missed her, or on the passenger seat of his car when he had a doctor’s appointment. If my sister was going through a difficult time, even though it might be the dead of winter, she would call me up and say, “Guess what I’m looking at right now, on my windowsill?” and I would answer, without missing a beat, “A ladybug.” Mom came through again and again.

After Dad died and I was particularly sad, having to make some big decisions without having either parent to ask for advice, I found myself driving to work and saying out loud, “I really need a lady bug sighting.” I thought of my ladybug collection at home that reminded me of Mom – pins, coffee mugs, journals, bracelets, note cards – but they just weren’t enough. I really, really needed her. As I slowed for one of the three stop lights in my town that foggy morning, I noticed something strange about the car in front of me. I blinked, then got a better look as I came to a top. It was a Volkswagen Beetle automobile. I’d gotten my driver’s license in one when I was 17 years old. But that wasn’t why I smiled. The Volkswagen Beetle was a red one with huge black spots painted on it. A car painted to look like a ladybug idling at the stop light. The ladybug sighting that I just asked for out loud – big enough just in case Theresa missed it.

I looked down and shook my head. Why was I not surprised??? [Note: I never saw that car again.]

For Dad, it’s a dragonfly.

flora goddess of flowers and spring

flora goddess of flowers and spring

Following Dad’s funeral Mass last year, we all proceeded to the mausoleum where Mom was buried. As my sister and I, our immediate family, and the rest of those who had come to pay final respects to Dad entered the marble building, for some reason, my sister turned around and looked at the wall of windows that covered its front. Just then, a beautiful dragonfly flew in and landed on the framework of the door. Quite large, it was a beautiful, iridescent blue (Dad’s favorite color, as well as the color of his eyes). It simply rested there, motionless. A cousin of mine turned to my sister and asked in a voice tinged with wonder, “Did you see that?” as they looked at the visitor. My sister nodded, unable to speak. When she told me about this later, I had no doubt that we had just received our first message from Dad.

In choosing the dragonfly for his sign, Dad chose a symbol of light, one of a select few creatures that are supposed to carry a deceased person’s energy to their loved ones, often seen as a harbinger of change.

This week, the final chapter in the managing of Dad’s estate took place when we had the closing for the sale of his house. My sister and I hoped that we would find a young family to bring the house alive, to transform it once again into a place of brightness and love and happiness. We got our wish when we met the couple who bought it, along with their young daughter. The conference room was filled with people – attorneys, realtors, secretaries, the buyers (the family) and the sellers (my sister and me). It was bittersweet – a relief, after a year, to have this last task completed, yet also very sad, to have this last task completed (see “Who Will Remember?”).

As we sat across the table from the family, my sister addressed the harried and exhausted looking mother, who had just finished telling us that they closed on the sale of their own house late the night before. “Your sweater – are those dragonflies on your sweater?” The woman stretched the front of the garment out so that we could see its print. Multiple dragonflies fluttered across it in bluish-purple beauty.

Dragonflies.

My sister and I both started to cry. As we brokenly explained what/who the dragonflies represented, the woman’s eyes filled with tears. “Well, I guess we know this was meant to be,” she softly commented, pulling her sweater more closely around her, almost like a hug.

She was correct. Dad was here to say that his house was being passed on to the right people, and that he was with us always. I would like to say a ladybug landed on the desk at the same time, but that didn’t happen. The dragonfly was enough.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for sending your love. Continuing bonds can never be broken.

There are signs. Our loved ones never leave us. We must simply open our eyes and our hearts will be filled.

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Dialogue

DIALOGUE
~ Barbara Dent ~
The Marriage of All and Nothing

“You took your time!” he chided her so tenderly.

“There were barriers all along the route
and someone had tampered with the signposts…”

“But surely you knew this way by heart!
 In dreams, if not in actuality.
I thought I’d shown you every bit of it,
taken you along it personally almost to the end!
How could you have lost your way?
 Even though some signposts had been vandalized.”

“You’ll make me cry!”

His gentle fingers stroked her cheek.
“You couldn’t – even if you tried.
No one ever mourns or weeps once they’ve arrived
and known the true embrace,
the everlasting kiss of peace.”

“The barriers,” she whispered, “they were real.
I tore my nails and made my hands all bloody beating at them.
And the muddling signs – I got confused.
I thought that I was going mad.
Storms and darkness.
Voices jeering at me glad that I was lost.
And fog…I lost my shoes.
 My feet were cut and blistered.
I cried out to you to help me –
but you didn’t come.
I tell you I was lost.
I called – you didn’t answer. You…”

His fingers gently closed her lips.
“Hush now, my dear. My dearest love.
It’s all past now. A nightmare. That was all.
A fearful one that blinded you and made you deaf.
And so you could not tell I never left your side at all.
Each moment I was guiding you
through night and storm and fog.
My arms supported you when all the signs made nonsense.
Those barriers you beat at futilely I led you round by level paths
that wandered over flowery fields where larks sang.
I gave you rest beneath some trees.
But you were blind and deaf and did not know…
And now you’ve reached your home.
No more nomad journeys.
 The search is ended.
Can’t you feel the haven of my arms?
My heart that beats for you alone?
My eyes that speak of love?
The nightmare’s over.
Sleep and rest.
Tomorrow we will celebrate together.”

She rested then. And slept. At last she slept.

What Have We Done Today?

What Have We Done Today?
by Nixon Waterman

We shall do much in the years to come,
But what have we done today?
We shall give our gold in a princely sum,
But what did we give today?
We shall lift the heart and dry the tear,
We shall plant a hope in the place of fear,
We shall speak the words of love and cheer,
But what did we speak today?

We shall be so kind in the after while,
But have we been today?
We shall bring to each lonely life a smile,
But what have we brought today?
We shall give to truth a grander birth,
And to steadfast faith a deeper worth,
 We shall feed the hungering souls of earth,
But whom have we fed today?

We shall reap such joys in the by and by,
But what have we sown today?
We shall build us mansions in the sky,
But what have we built today?
‘Tis sweet in the idle dreams to bask;
But here and now, do we our task?
Yes, this is the thing our souls must ask,
What have we done today?

A Real Friend

A “Real” Friend by Margery Williams
from The Velveteen Rabbit

“What is real?” asked the rabbit one day.
“Does it mean having things that buzz inside you,
and a stick out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you were made,” said the Skin Horse,
“it’s a thing that happens to you.

When a child loves you for a long time, not just to play with,
but really loves you,
then you become Real.
It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.

“You become. It takes a long time…”

“Generally, by the time you are Real,
most of your hair has been rubbed off

and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints
and very shabby.
But these things don’t matter at all,
because once you are Real,
 you can’t be ugly,
except to people who don’t understand.”

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My blessings to all those who are “Real”…
~ Theresa ~

Today’s Quote

The Essence of Existence
by Viktor Frankl

There are three main avenues on which one arrives at meaning in life.
The first is by creating a work or by doing a deed.
The second is by experiencing something or by encountering someone;
 meaning can be found not only in work
but also in experiencing another human being
in his very uniqueness…by loving him…
Most important, however, is the third avenue to meaning in life:
by suffering.
Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation,
facing a fate he cannot change,
may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself,
and by so doing, change himself.
He may turn personal tragedy into triumph.

Of Hospitals, Loss & Love

When I worked in the Pastoral Care Department of a hospital that was designated a Level I Trauma Center (See: We Are Not a Number” & “Wounded Hearts“), my duties were varied – praying with a patient right before their surgery, comforting a family waiting in the ER for their family member, rushing to any room that was involved in a Code, contacting family members for any patient who was brought in by Medevac Helicopter, or even sitting with anyone alone in the ER, looking scared and in pain. That last description was just about everyone.

In the rare event that I had a chance to try for some rest in the on-call room, I would prop my feet up and close my eyes until the beeping of my pager broke into my reverie. Either that, or the whirring sound of the helicopter blades as the Medevac neared its landing pad on the roof. Then it would be off the bed, out the door, racing to the trauma bays. “ETA – 10 minutes.” Just enough time to arrive at the ER, get suited up, ready for whomever was brought in.

Sometimes it was a motor vehicle accident or an ATV rider without a helmet vs. a tree, a drunk driver crashing into a building, a lineman electrocuted by live wires, a lonely person who jumped from a bridge or took too many pills, someone rescued from a burning house or a factory explosion. All sorts of traumas passed through the doors.

Staff included ER doctors, nurses, chaplains, phlebotomists, x-ray techs, security guards, physician’s assistants – all standing in their appointed spot in the small area that included two fully equipped trauma bays, waiting for the flight nurses or EMTs to arrive with their patient. I never saw anyone or anything that was unprofessional; the focus was always on each arriving patient and doing whatever possible to save their lives. The staff moved as a team with quiet precision.

On a particularly busy night, our latest arrivals were a young mother and her child from a motor vehicle accident; her husband and their second child were taken to another hospital near-by. Thankfully, the child escaped with minor abrasions and a concussion, and was already in a bed in pediatrics. The mother took more time to stabilize with some broken ribs, a fractured wrist, abrasions and contusions. Following our treatment, she was whisked off for a C-T scan.

Business as usual followed each patient – housekeeping cleaned the area, doctors signed off on computers, security locked up valuables and technicians moved aside their portable x-ray machines.

Suddenly the double doors from inside the ER swung open and the young mother was brought back in. Puzzled, we looked to the tech who wheeled her past us into the surgical suite adjacent to the bays. This operating room was normally used for those patients with injuries severe enough that there wasn’t enough time to make it to a regular OR.

Knowing she didn’t need surgery, someone asked what was wrong.

“This seems to be the only private area available. The other hospital notified us that the husband will be okay, but we need to tell her that her other child died.”

The double doors to the OR shut with a quiet whoosh. Through the window I could see the doctor take the mother’s hand as he leaned closer. Two nurses stood at the other side of the bed. With that terrible news delivered in the gentlest and kindest of ways – the kind of news from which you never recover – we heard a cry released from the depths of her being, the OR suite unable to contain the sounds of her grief.

It pierced our ears and our hearts. Then, total silence. Not one sound came from any of us – and there were at least 20 staff present – as we froze in place. For us, nothing else existed but the mother’s agonized cry. It tore into us, demanding our respect and mindful attention.

In that terrible moment, it seemed as if the cries of all parents who ever lost a child (the worst loss) echoed through time…through generations…and reverberated off the walls of this very place.

A doctor stood in his scrubs, head thrown back with eyes closed, fists at his sides. Two nurses held each other in a tight embrace; the woman from housekeeping held her mop in mid stride; a resident’s hand stood motionless above a keyboard, typing stopped in mid-sentence; a security guard turned toward the wall.

My eyes met the doctor’s, whose mirrored the pain. In a single movement, my back slid down the wall and I held my knees in my arms, the tableau frozen with her raw grief.

After what seemed like forever, but could only have been a minute, a voice overhead announcing the ETA of another trauma snapped us out of our absorption. The area became a buzz of activity as we picked up where we had left off, grateful for the respite offered by much-needed focus, occupied with our assigned tasks.

We could push all of this aside, but the mother could not. We could hug our own children that night, or call to remind them of our love, but the mother could only do that with one child, rather than two.

Once again, as medical professionals we were reminded that regardless of our technology or expertise or willingness to switch places in order to keep children from harm, all stories do not have happy endings. Once again, there was no good answer for the question on everyone’s lips – “Why?” It was beyond our human understanding. And it hurt. It hurt terribly.

But for a brief moment, in that hospital, there were no differences in skin color or language, in gender or faith tradition, in economic status or profession, in looks or bank account. We were joined through threads of pain and compassion, of despair and hope…and of love.

We were together. Interconnected.

Although no one moved, you could almost feel our arms reaching out to the young mother in her grief, comforting her, reassuring her. And if you looked closely enough, you could almost see the faint outline of a little girl kissing her mother’s cheek good-bye…

Be well, my child. Play and laugh and sing. Your family loves you and will always remember you. And even though we never met you, all of us with your mother that night love you and remember you as well. In the too-short time you lived, you mattered to so very many of us.

From deep in our hearts, we send you our eternal blessings.

Circles of Grace and Compassion. A Circle of Love.

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A Blessing of Angels

A Blessing of Angels
by John O’Donohue

May the Angels in their beauty bless you.
May they turn toward you streams of blessing.

May the Angel of Awakening stir your heart
to come alive to the eternal within you,
to all the invitations that quietly surround you.

May the Angel of Healing turn your wounds into sources of refreshment.

May the Angel of the Imagination enable you to stand on the true thresholds,
at ease with your ambivalence and drawn in new directions
through the glow of your contradictions.

May the Angel of Compassion open your eyes to the unseen suffering around you.

May the Angel of Wildness disturb the places
 where your life is domesticated and safe,
take you to the territories of true otherness
where all that is awkward in you can fall into its own rhythm.

May the Angel of Eros introduce you to the beauty of your senses
to celebrate your inheritance as a temple of the holy spirit.

May the Angel of Justice disturb you to take the side of the poor and the wronged.

May the Angel of Encouragement confirm you in worth and self-respect,
that you may live with the dignity that presides in your soul.

May the Angel of Death arrive only when your life is complete
and you have brought every given gift to the threshold where its infinity can shine.

May all the Angels be your sheltering and joyful guardians.

Promise Me That You Will…

Be kind to yourself.
Look in the mirror and see that you are beautiful.
Make three wishes.
Be strong.
Nurture your soul.
Continue your prayers.
Let go of any pain.
Banish any anger.
Take one moment at a time.
Hear music.
Make music.
Seek inspiration.
Learn.
Believe in fairy tales and in the magic of your dreams.
Find that dreams do come true.
Hug yourself.
Feel the sun shine.
Believe again.
Smile.
Seek laughter.
Always remember that you have a guardian angel watching over you.
Find hope.
Find your true love.

Promise me these things.

~ Linda Ann McConnell ~

Today’s Quote

The ABCs of Life

Accept differences.
Be kind.
Count your blessings.
Dream.
Express thanks.
Forgive.
Give freely.
Harm no one.
Imagine more.
Jettison anger.
Keep confidences.
Love truly.
Master something.
Nurture hope.
Open your mind.
Pack lightly.
Quell rumors.
Reciprocate.
Seek wisdom.
Touch hearts.
Understand.
Value truth.
Win graciously.
Xeriscape.
Yearn for peace.
Zealously support a worthy cause.

~ Author Unknown ~

Today’s Quote

Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Listen hard.
Laugh.
Play with abandon.
Fail with enthusiasm.
Continue to learn.
Love well.
Appreciate your friends.
Practice wellness.
Choose with no regrets.
Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.

~ Mary Anne Radmacher ~

You Are Enough

You Are Enough

 ~ Rev. Dr. Kenneth W. Collier ~

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You are enough.

 You are a beautiful human being.
You have a personality, a humanity, a way of being
that is yours and no one else’s,
and that makes you precious and loved and loveable.

You are enough.

 You are something of unique and inestimable value.
Within your own heart there is a sparkling,
twinkling light of worth, dignity, beauty, and love.

You are enough.

 You do not need to become someone else.
You do not need to imitate this person or that one,
no matter how famous, talented or privileged
they may happen to be.
You do not need this person’s intelligence or
that person’s talent or another person’s wealth.
And you do not need any other person to become like you.

There is only one thing that you need.

You need yourself.
You need to become yourself.
You need to imitate yourself.
You need to love yourself.

You are enough.

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Today’s Quote

The Halo

~ Rumi

“My soul gave me good counsel, teaching me to love.
Love was for me a delicate thread stretched between two adjacent pegs,
but now it has been transformed into a halo;
its first is its last, and its last is its first.
It encompasses every being, slowly expanding to embrace all that ever will be.”

In the Presence of Holiness

While I attended optometry school in Philadelphia, students worked on cadavers for our Head & Neck Anatomy class. I was apprehensive about how I would react to this new experience, but intrigued at the same time. My group was assigned to an 80-year old woman who was covered by a thin white sheet.

As I stood at her left side, I noticed her uncovered hand. It looked exactly like my grandmother’s hand – shriveled, marked by age spots, calloused and worn. In that instant, I saw her differently. She was no longer a cadaver, but someone’s mother, wife, sister, grandmother, daughter. She had loved and lost, hoped and dreamed, laughed and cried. A part of the human community, she mattered.

With a respectful air, I drew down the sheet and started the dissection. When I cut through the layers of muscle to the blood vessels, I paused. The branches of the arteries and veins were quite delicate and beautiful, laid out with a precise purpose in anything but a random, haphazard way. In that moment, I knew that I was in the Presence of God, and that all of Creation lay before me.

I was in the presence of holiness. In the most unexpected and humble of places, I experienced the interconnectedness of the human race.

I will be forever grateful for the gift that the nameless woman offered to those of us in the class.

I named her Grace. Circles of Grace.