Everyday Spirituality

Archive for October, 2011

Prayer for the Death of a Loved One

“We give back to you, O God, those whom you gave to us. You did not lose them when you gave them to us, and we do not lose them by their return to you. Your dear Son has taught us that life is eternal and love cannot die. So death is only a horizon, and a horizon is only the limit of our sight. Open our eyes to see more clearly, and draw us closer to you that we may know that we are nearer to our loved ones who are with you. You have told us that you are preparing a place for us: prepare us also for that happy place, that where you are we may also be always, O dear Lord of life and death.” (William Penn 16-44-1718, The Oxford Book of Prayer)

I am reminded that many years ago Christopher Columbus thought the world was flat     because all he could see was the horizon line where the sky  met the water.

Perhaps we are like Christopher Columbus when it comes to understanding death.

We just may be closer than we think.

Join me in praying for the gift of increased sight.

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Endings

Little children cherish each day so much they do not even want to go to sleep. Nightfall, when you are little is the end a fun filled day with all of your toys. It takes a few years before you come to understand that going to sleep is how you get to have another fun filled day. Going to sleep keeps you healthy so you CAN play and enjoy the next day.

Have you ever been reading such a good book that you did not want it to end? I think many readers of the recent Harry Potter series felt that way at the end of each novel…and now they are sad because the series is finished.

Have you ever walked out of a movie feeling like you wanted more? Believe it or not I felt that way about the movie Avatar. I know the story was not real, but there was a beautiful message of love there…even if the main characters were blue.

I have been alone on retreats when I did not want the time to come to an end. The quiet time alone with the Lord…I have been on vacations I did not want to end…I have had relationships with friends that I did not want to end…I have had relaxing massages I did not want to end.

But the truth is all things must come to an end…good or bad.

Nothing lasts forever.

Every breath we take comes to an end. Every cell in our body comes to an end.

I think endings are by nature pregnant with beginnings. Endings and beginnings are hooked together like a chain. Beginnings and endings are intimately connected to one another. When possible a new beginning link will emerge as a result of an ending link.

When my husband brings me a bouquet of beautiful roses for our anniversary their beauty predictably fades after few short days.

Just imagine for a moment if we had no endings in our life. If we had no endings would we ever have the gift of beginnings?

I must admit that I sometimes find it hard to get rid of clothes that no longer fit. I would still like to wear some of my favorite clothes, but I cannot find that size 6 body anymore. It ended sometime after I turned 40.

There are things in my life that I am glad have come to an end. We can even joyfully anticipate certain endings like pregnancy, getting up through the night with a sick child, an awful job situation, a loved one returning home from war.

Some endings are in our control, but many are out of our control. Perhaps the endings we cannot control are the more troubling ones. The endings we do not see coming at all are most difficult to accept. How does one wrestle with an unwelcomed ending? Some never come to terms with an unexpected ending. Instead they become bitter, live in anger, and rob themselves of new beginnings.

Eventually most emerge from the pain and then the possibility of new beginnings becomes a surprising realization.

Must we allow new beginnings? Can we just lock ourselves away and live on denying that beginnings are possible for us?

Without the possibility of new beginnings

we have lost all hope.

I hold on to the belief that with this profound ending, the death of my friend, comes the birth of something even more wonderful. I am not sure if any other ending can compare to the ending of a loved one’s life. The loved ones remaining here feel like they are standing on the shore waiting for the tide to bring back the loved one.

The end of a loved one’s life is so permanent, yet births a glorious beginning for them.

Death….

 Alpha and Omega

Eternally linked together.

Great Treasure

The Veggie Tales Company has this infectious song called ‘Where is My Hairbrush?’ Several years ago through my dear friend’s grandchildren I was introduced to this song. For days I could not get the silly lyrics and music out of my head. Even now as I write this music is swirling around in my head. It got to be such a joke that I did not want anyone to so much as mention just the title because that song would begin playing in my head… The human brain works like that; something relatively insignificant will trigger a memory.

There will always be those simple things throughout your life that become special for only you, such as the memory of this little song. Maybe it initially touched me because the children took such delight in singing it and later teasing me with it. I am not sure. But it brings a smile to my face now.

Since the death of my friend I have found myself being more attentive to those things she had given me over the years. They mean more now. They remind me of her. They conjure up precious memories. I have thought about creating one special place to collect these memory gifts…a ‘friendship collection’, but that is probably not going to happen. These gifts were given to be used not to be displayed and become dust collectors.

One of the last physical pleasures  I was able to do for my friend before she died was to brush her hair.

I never would have thought that brushing her hair could have made her so happy.

She would say, “Brush it harder” or “that feels so good”.

Sometimes I would ask her if she wanted me to brush her hair and sometimes she would ask for me to brush her hair. I loved to brush her hair in every direction imaginable…from the front to the back…from the back to the front, which made it stand up and look wild. I would carefully guide the brush around her ears not wanting to hurt them.

Her lovely gray hair was so dry and thin. I worried that I would scratch her scalp, but that never happened.

You just do not know what will become dear to you.

It was a means for us to connect in an intimate way. Having someone brush your hair is almost a luxury. Much of the time she was too weak to lift up her tiny arms to brush her hair. I want to always remember how much joy that brought to her. Each stroke of the brush touching each strand of hair was a simple expression of my love. I am so thankful that she let me brush her hair.

I consider myself to be moderately sentimental. I cherish a few meaningful items belonging to loved ones both living and dead. I have my grandmother’s pound cake written in her own handwriting, given to me at wedding shower. I have my mother-in-law’s pearl necklace, given to me one Christmas after she died.

But I have never wanted someone’s hair until now. I had this strong desire to clean the hair from the brush I had used to brush my friend’s hair. I went to the drawer where she kept her brush and it was missing. My heart skipped a beat at the thought that I would not be able to collect this great treasure.

Keeping her hair with me protected in a small baggie is literally having a piece of her physically with me. It is so strange that I would want to carry this with me. So unlike anything I have done before. A single strand of hair contains a storehouse of information about the person…the essence of whom they were, at least physically.

I already possessed the essence of who she was spiritually…it quietly resides within my heart and soul. She shared it with me on numerous occasions. Long lasting friendships become a great treasure when you have risked enough to share your essence with one another.

I will cherish the few strands of hair I have;

along with the tender memory of brushing her hair

the day before she died.

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans

I have for you,

declares the Lord,

plans to prosper you

and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope

 and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

This has been my favorite scripture verse for quite some time now. It brings me comfort and joy, but it also brings me sadness. I am humbled as I take the time to hover above my life so far. I am beginning to appreciate how his divine plan is unfolding. It is as if I am unfolding this intricate piece of origami. As I unfold each tiny piece I see another part that before I did not see. Or now I am able to see it from a different vantage point. It was there neatly tucked away inside a paper crevice.

“For I know the plans I have for you…” some may think that is predestination, but I do not believe that to be the case. I could have always changed my mind and taken a different path. I believe it is grace freely given from God that helps us realize the plans he has for our lives.

For many years now I have been trying to live my life according to the plans God had for me; at least as I saw them. There may be the catch, ‘as I saw’ his plans. Maybe there was a larger plan that was impossible for me to see. Maybe certain parts had to be completed before I was allowed to see the bigger picture. Or maybe I am still not in a position to ‘see’ the whole picture.

We can only see things from where we are until we unfold another corner of the origami and more is revealed.

Our youngest son used to occupy his time in church making origami peace cranes. What can I say; he was quiet. As you are making each fold you cannot see how it will turn out in the end. You just continue to follow the ‘plan’ i.e. the directions until you see the final creation.

Sometimes I feel physically ill; like I want to throw up and regurgitate this thing called grief out of my system. But I know that will not help it go away. Instead I cuddle it like a newborn; caressing its soft cheek. Holding it; close to my heart just as I once held her close…the frail body of my dear friend.

I saved a white rose from one of her funeral arrangements. I placed it in fresh water. I positioned the vase right near where I fix my morning coffee. Every morning for over a week now I have been gently kissing the soft petals. It has become part of my morning ritual.

Why you may ask?      I cannot give you an answer.

It’s symbolizing an expression of my love for her.

“…plans to prosper you and not harm you…”  I feel blessed to have so many friends willing to be here for me. It is difficult at times to believe that God has plans not to harm you. My ‘faith twin’ of the heart is gone. I reluctantly accepted the past year that she was not able physically to contribute as she had before. Before the ruthless pancreatic cancer took over her body, she relished in what we created together. I cannot see deep between all of the folds, but there is a delicate paper crane. I must believe this to be true.

“…plans to give you hope and a future.” Speak Lord your servant is listening. Unfold another piece and reveal to me how I can better serve you and your people. You are the way, the truth, and the life…what lies ahead in the future?

God’s plan so far has joined our two families so that we can be there for one another into the future. She was not just my friend I have a special relationship with each person in her family and so does my husband. We love each one of them as we have shared much of our lives together. They are each as much a part of our lives as our own sons. God’s plan…

Whatever the future holds it will be filled with love. Love can never be taken away. It continues to grow stronger as memories of our loved one lives on through us. She took love with her to heaven…love she had for us and the love that we had for her.

We are called to love one another tenderly.

Profound Sadness:The Loss is Great

I do not shed tears all day every day.

It seems so strange…why I do not cry.

The loss is great

The sadness deep inside

There is a kind of comfort in this place.

A space within that knows to Be Still and Know that God is God.

I feel peace and calm inside, but profound sadness.

I am not depressed. I can still laugh and have fun, just sad.

The loss is great

I know she is with me. We spoke about cherishing in our hearts the things that we shared through the years.

I thank God every day for her presence in my life.

Many days I would walk with the heavy knowledge that we were going to lose her. This week I bought a wedding gift for my niece. The box was rather large. Carrying it from gift wrap to the car was a real challenge. I could not get my arms around the box. I had to walk with my arms held out with the box precariously balanced on my forearms. My arms were aching but I could not let the box fall and break its contents. My arms were aching, but I carried this box just as I carried the knowledge of losing my friend. It was so heavy. I would try to distract myself so as not to think about how heavy the “box” was, but I could never put down the box. I could not take the contents out and leave it on the side of the road either. It is hard to see what lies ahead when you are carrying a large box in your arms.

The loss is great

Sometimes I just let people hug me and hold me. Sometimes words are insufficient. And I love words…the way they sound…the way the letters look…the way words come together to make a sentence.

Hugs to me are two hearts touching and silently communicating their care for the other. Hugs can express more than words.

In the Blessed Mother’s suffering and sadness; the soldiers took her son’s tortured body from the cross and laid him in her arms. How she must have longed to hold him close to her and hear his voice one last time. I hope the women with Mary brought her comfort with their hugs.

The loss is great

There is no time table for grief…each person processes their loss differently.

Some people touch our lives only briefly, while others leave a lasting impression and are never forgotten.

(so beautifully written on a card I recently viewed)

I don’t think you overcome the loss of a loved one I believe you absorb this sadness taking it inside of yourself.

The absorbed loss of a loved one transforms you into a more caring compassionate person. Through great sadness you learn to appreciate great love.

May your life be blessed with great love as I have been in mine.

A hug requires no words.

The loss is great