Everyday Spirituality

Archive for September, 2011

Inside the Bubble of Grief

As I prepare your funeral services my heart is not unlike your delicate skin… Bruised purple, black, and blue…weeping from tiny almost invisible pores. My deep sadness seeps out almost unseen by others. One droplet at a time with each beat of my heart. I have spent the week mopping up the grief within. This grief is rising; this grief swells and creeps up around my heart. Will the waves become turbulent and drown my heart? I must quickly seal these invisible wounds before they become too serious to be restored…to be whole again.

I watched your tiny frail body be ravaged by something bigger than life. The sheer power of your death, beloved, seems to be worse than we could possibly imagine. Perhaps our hearts are protected so that we cannot fully grasp the power of death until it comes and knocks you over. I was prepared to let you go, to surrender. We were blessed with so many precious moments. We could see and feel death coming like a tidal wave.

Death crashes like an angry wave around your heart. You cannot escape; you can only collapse under the power of this wave. You can only submit and let it knock you down flooding completely over you. The water will recede, but things will never be the same. What remains will be partially devastated, like a hurricane stricken town. It takes time to rebuild. I will be patient.

The days immediately following death are as if you exist, but not in the real world.

Normal things are happening, but you are in another state of mind. You are in a bubble like state of mind. You see and hear everything around you but it does not seem in focus…sounds are muffled. You frequently forget what you are trying to do.

 When I remove my glasses the world is a very fuzzy and distorted place. That is what enduring the death of a loved one feels like to me. It is as if I am inside this invisible bubble looking out. There is a thin membrane…the view of life is distorted…but I am somehow protected by this delicate fragile membrane.

Bubbles can remain intact for only as long as they can retain their surface moisture. It was always exciting when a child would discover; it is actually possible to put something inside of a bubble without causing it  to pop.

Bubbles reflect brilliant colors. These colors come from reflections of the white light that falls on their surface. Science tells us that white light, whether from the Sun or from a light bulb, contains light of all colors.

We are children of THE Light!

Reflected light separates into the colors of the rainbow. Even the tiniest bubbles show the full spectrum of colors — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet — just as a rainbow does.

This rainbow of color shimmers across the surface of each bubble.

Next time you have the chance to blow some bubbles I invite you to think about how you reflect the light of God to those around you.

The Holy Spirit guided, lifted and carried my bubble these last few days. The Holy Spirit created the brilliant reflected colors of so much during this time. Inside the bubble I could not see the reflected light. But I continue to be overwhelmed by so many things both big and little that have happened in this past week.

Others have come inside the bubble with me to stay for awhile. We have held each other close in shared consolation. We have lovingly exposed our grief to one another.

 

We cannot stay in our bubble of grief we must emerge renewed and restored by all that God has blessed us with.

We have been called to shine the light for all to see; not to just peer out from within our little bubble of grief.

My dear friend you could not have loved me any more than you did.

I hope and pray that I loved you back equally as well.

You will forever be in my heart. Love has power over death!

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Patience…Waiting on God

Years ago I remember telling my mother… “Patience is a virtue; try and cultivate it”. Well needless to say she did not much appreciate my advice. She was mothering a house full of children and I had just come home for a visit from the convent. She tolerated my enthusiasm and chalked it off to the time period of my life. You know that time when you have finally gone off to college and now you know everything…at least so you think.

I did have the right words…for patience is a virtue but it takes a life time to work on
cultivating it.

Patience is not only waiting, but keeping a good attitude while you wait.

I now experience patience while sitting in traffic, at the airport, at the doctor’s office. Today I am thinking about the patience I am feeling now as I wait for the Lord. A loved one is suffering and I patiently wait for God. I wait for God to call her home to his side to stroll with him in the heavenly gardens. I wait for God to restore her in his own resurrection of the body.

I patiently wait…sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do, but wait. Patience seems such a contradiction in our world of constant motion and instant texting.

The word “patience” is derived from the Latin word pati, which means to suffer, to endure, to bear.

My dad knew about patience. He was an avid fisherman. When fishing, most of the time is spent patiently waiting for a bite. The reward is sometimes a nice catch followed by a yummy fish dinner.

When my friend plants her vegetable garden she experiences patience. She must wait for the plants to blossom and the tomato to grow before it can be harvested.

Patience is the fourth Fruit of the Spirit. Gal.5: 22-23 Patience has unique qualities…waiting without complaining.

St. Augustine says, “Patience is the companion of wisdom”. Wisdom…more than acquiring knowledge; but rather the ability to discern inner qualities.

Most things in life worth having take patience…All good things come to those who wait. Is that in the Bible? Something close, I think…maybe a Proverb?

I experienced patience with each pregnancy… waiting for the birth of our sons.

Patience fills the kitchen with the aroma of coffee brewing or that single cup of steeping hot Jasmine tea.

Patience is about being submissive to God’s timing in our lives. Patience is about carving out a place in your heart to sit awhile. Patience is sitting with love when we do not have the answers. Patience is about accepting when things are not going according to our way. Patience is keeping watch while a loved one slowly slips away a little more each day.

Patience…

why is it a fruit  of the
Spirit?

Fruit, when ripe, has  a natural nourishing sweetness.

When will I be able to taste the sweetness of this fruit called Patience?

 

 

Jesus was patient even as his mother, Mary, urged him at the wedding feast of Cana to spare the couple embarrassment for running out of wine. Jesus was patiently waiting for ‘his time to come’. Jesus was patient with his disciples. Jesus is patient with me.

Patience is waiting for the rose bud to gently unfurl its petals. Patience is waiting for the delicate butterfly to fully emerge from the chrysalis. Patience is waiting for the storm to pass. Patience is waiting, after the rain, for the rainbow to arch across the sky.

Patience is waiting for God to call your loved one home from a lengthy illness.

I sometimes watch the tiny gecko on our bathroom window. It remains very still and patiently waits for a moth to flutter within reach. And then in a flash snatches the moth into its mouth. Patience.

I saw this on a poster…Patience is waiting until later for what you want now. Patience is waiting for God to lift your loved one into his eternal arms. Sometimes death is a blessing. I struggle with being impatient with God’s timing. I know we are never ready to lose a loved one, but it is agony to watch them suffer. I know God has a plan but this knowledge does not diminish the heart breaking pain. Patience.

Patience is the sculptor chiseling away at the block of stone bit by bit until the statue is revealed.

Patience is developed throughout our daily lives. Practicing Centering Prayer is one way that helps me to better appreciate patience. Just silently sitting…opening up my mind to the nothingness…just being in the moment…resting in the spirit.

Increase my patience, Lord. Grant me your peace within my soul. I thank you, Lord, for always being patient with me as I continue this journey. Shower me with your grace to carry on with trust and faith in your love. Scoop up my loved one into your arms and swiftly carry her home. Amen.

~ Importance of Forgiveness ~

This weekend as we reflect on the attack of 9-11-2001, I think it might be good to call to mind the importance of forgiveness in our life.

That fateful morning we were all going about our normal daily routine…people were commuting to their jobs, children were returning to school…some were traveling on business trips…some were reporting to their public service jobs. No one knew that morning how drastically life in this country would be changed.

Many people faced their death that day with little or no time to prepare or hear the voices of their loved ones one last time. Many were thrust into life or death decisions. Many had choices to help themselves or to help others.

There is no greater love than to lay down your life…John 15:13

Countless numbers of families lost loved ones that day with no opportunity for closure. Many lost loved ones without the chance to say what needed to be said. Families and communities were torn apart. Children lost their parents. Spouses lost their partners. Parents lost their children. The list of losses goes on and on.

First responders put their fears and concerns last and entered what was to become their tombs.

~Forgiveness aids Healing~

We all watched in horror as the twin towers billowed smoke and ultimately crumbled to the ground before our very eyes. The earliest reports suggested a terrorist attack which; ultimately were confirmed to our greatest sadness. Fear surged throughout our country; as a community and as individuals we were ripped open.

~Forgiveness restores Peace~

As the morning unfolded two more airlines crashed; one into the Pentagon building the other in a field in an open field…

In the following days each individual person, whether directly or indirectly, had a choice to make forgiveness or anger and hatred their guiding force.

~Forgiveness neutralizes Resentment~

It takes great courage to forgive. It is not an easy decision to make. I know of cases where a loved one’s death has caused great sorrow because of the inability to forgive.

There is abundant research supporting the benefits of forgiveness. Our mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing is directly affected by our capacity to forgive. Harboring anger and resentment within is like embedding a heavy anchor permanently within your soul.

Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven… Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD? Sirach 28:2-3

Forgiveness is like releasing a caged bird; allowing it to fly free into the air. Forgiveness is the gift of mercy and love when it appears to be most undeserved. Forgiveness is like rebirthing your own soul. Forgiveness confirms that goodness is bigger than wrongdoing and evil. Forgiveness is like planting flowers in a barren desert.

~The Forgiveness Mandala~

 

I invite you now to use the forgiveness formula below to begin or continue your healing process through forgiveness. Place the name of the person, institution, community, or your own name on the blank line. Continue by reading the rest of the paragraph. I did not write this but I hope you find it to be helpful.

________________, I now understand why you behaved the way you did and I am sorry that you are so filled with pain that you feel you must inflict it on others in order to regain your own power. I refuse; however, to let you hurt me anymore. I am choosing to let go of the pain you have caused me, for my own sake. I realize that letting go of this pain does not minimize or condone your bad behavior. It does, however, validate my own worth as a person and my right to finally be free of your abuse. I am choosing to take back my personal power so that I may heal. I now release all the hurtful emotions I feel regarding your behavior. I am now free to heal and move on.

 

“Please forgive me,”  “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you.”

…Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…

~Gratitude and Forgiveness~

Joined together create the best of who we are called to become.

 

May your life be surrounded with gratitude and grounded with forgiveness.

 

~Swallowed in Quicksand~

When I was in high school you would often see scenes in movies depicting someone being swallowed up by quicksand. It was a frightening thought to be trapped in such a seemingly helpless situation. No one could come near enough to help the person or they too would be drowning in the quicksand.

I was thinking about how grief acts much the same way…swallowing you up into itself. You feel frightened, trapped, and even helpless at times.

 Others may not want to get too close; they too may get swallowed up by this quicksand called grief.

Mostly people do not know what to say, however they mean well.

Quicksand presses in on all sides of your body

making you feel as if you will suffocate.

When you are trapped in quicksand the most important thing on your mind is surviving long enough to work your way back to stable ground. If you struggle you will plunge deeper into the mucky mud. Struggling to distance yourself from grief will only cause it to linger around longer, perhaps for the rest of your life.

Did you know the way to escape quicksand is to wiggle your legs?

The odd thing about quicksand is that it appears to be solid ground.

It looks normal. It is only when you step into it do you realize it will not support your weight.

I do not pretend to understand everything about grief. I remember when I was a still young my grandmother died. I was not ready to lose her; we had so much fun together. I can remember out of the blue after she died being overcome with grief while driving or grocery shopping. The tears would burst forth without warning. They seemed to be an essential part of the healing process.

“The waters swirled about me, threatening my life; the abyss enveloped me.” Jonah 2:6

I surrender to this grief pressing against my whole being. It is futile to resist as it envelopes one’s entire being. I lie motionless waiting to float to the surface. The Lord’s own invisible hand sustains my soul. No one else would dare come that close.

The one thing you should not do if caught in quicksand, is fight with the sand. It will only make it that much more difficult to free yourself.

The human body will actually float in quicksand. You will not drown.

 In the quicksand of grief…

I give myself permission to allow the tears to drench the surface.

Fighting back with anger and denial will not bring peace to my soul; instead it will feed the grief like sour milk.

What do you think about tears? Some people do not like to cry. Some even think crying is a sign of weakness. We hear parents admonishing children ‘don’t be a cry baby’. As a society we have not learned to grieve well. We tend to put on our ‘happy face’ no matter what.

The ability to free yourself completely from quicksand takes a considerable amount of energy. I won’t bore you here with the scientific details, but to remove one foot from quicksand requires the same amount of force as lifting a mid-sized car. Wow!

“The Lord, your God, who is in your midst, is a great and awesome God.” Dt. 7:21

Release from this grief may take years, and maybe that is how it should be. When the emotional state of grief diminishes you will once again breathe in fresh air.

The memories of your loved one live on in you and through you. I am reminded of the final words of each Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass when the priest says, ‘Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit…’

Everyone who loved Jesus also experienced the quicksand of grief.

How would they continue without his earthly presence? Who would be there to guide them? To encourage them? To teach them?

Who would be there to inspire them to be better than they were?

Those who loved Jesus were no different than us. They had all the same emotions, hopes, and fears. The Emmaus journey encapsulates all that it means to be human in a few well written verses.

“I, the Lord, am with you always, until the end of the world.” Mt. 28: 20

Without Grief would we ever be able to recognize much less appreciate Joy?