Everyday Spirituality

Posts tagged ‘death’

My Soul Yearns

 Each day for hours the cat sits very still     on the windowsill. She stares outside.

I wonder. Is she yearning for her former days as a free, yet abandoned cat? Does she long for the thrill of the hunt? Does she miss the suspense of stalking her next meal? Does she still remember the wind blowing through her fur? Does she want to run free exploring with her neighborhood cat friends?

This post is mostly about my unanswered questions about yearning. Is yearning different from longing? Or are they merely two different words we use to express the same state of consciousness? Is craving for something yet another word we use to describe the same emotion?

 Does a caterpillar yearn to develop wings and fly?

Does a bud yearn to unfold its petals?

Does a fragrance yearn to be inhaled?

Does a thought yearn to be expressed?

Does a word yearn to be written?

Does a book yearn to be read?

Does a cloud yearn to release its raindrops?

Does the sunrise yearn to break the darkness?

Does a dream yearn to be remembered?

Is what you yearn for compatible with your true self? How can you know?

Does a sail yearn to be filled with wind?

Whatever you are yearning for; God will satisfy. Do you believe this? Is God really the only one who can satisfy our yearning hearts?

Does yearning keep you moving forward or is it paralyzing?

Did Jesus know what it meant to yearn?

Can yearning ever be satisfied in this life?

Does darkness yearn to see the light?

Does a spark yearn to burst into flame?

Is there ever an end to yearning?

Does one yearning give birth to a future yearning?

Does war yearn for peace?

What does your soul yearn for in the warmth of the sunlight?

What does your soul yearn for in the dark of night?

What if you yearn for something you cannot have?

What if you yearn for something that does not exist?

Little did I know; research shows that after a death of a loved one yearning is the primary emotion felt. This is contrary to previous studies which found depression to be the primary emotion. The Yale and Harvard scientists found yearning to be the most powerful negative emotion after a death. Learning about this study actually makes me feel normal. Ha!

Yearn is a great word to remember when

playing scrabble.

 If my writing does nothing but causes you to think; then I have written well at least for today.

 “…my soul yearns and pines…” Psalm 84

Sometimes I am confused by what I yearn for…

Do I actually create my own yearnings or do they just materialize?

I am yearning to learn all that I can about how to become

a better more holy person.





Ordinary Time is Green

We are now in the thirteenth week of ordinary time according to the liturgical calendar. By the end of the year we will have had thirty three weeks of ordinary time.

Ordinary time is a kind of misnomer I think. We live most of our lives in what we would consider ordinary time for our life. Just as in the church our ordinary lives are punctuated by more memorable events.

Some of these events are filled with joy…some are filled with sadness…some are filled with fear…some are filled with peace…some are filled with song…some are filled with silence…some are filled with passion. These exclamation points are scattered about the ordinary time of the days of our life.

Ordinary time is where we do our real living. Ordinary time is where we grow into who we are to be. Ordinary time is where we practice for the times which jolt us into another dimension. The color for ordinary time is green. Green…the color I most associate with life and renewal.

When we are not in ordinary time everything is more intense. In the liturgical calendar we have Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter which take us out of ordinary time for a brief period. We operate at a different level during these times of the year. The liturgical vestments themselves draw our attention out of monotonous green of ordinary time…purple, red, white, even the color rose adorn the sanctuary.

For us so much of our lives seem to be just ordinary nothing special, but it is important to pay attention to those times. I am happy with my ordinary life. Not to say that there are not things I would want to change but for the most part I do have a good life.

What if ordinary time was like the beautiful blue sky backdrop…constant reliable…something you could count on being there always? Ordinary time seems so boring and uneventful, but in reality every day is an event. Every day gives another chance to thank God for what he accomplishes in the ordinary time of our life.

The readings of the church during ordinary time are filled with miracles of healing, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. Most of the ministry of the life of Jesus is presented to us during ordinary time. Ordinary time gives a chance to connect with the real living person of Jesus. Ordinary time gives a chance to see who Jesus really was when he took on flesh and blood. Ordinary time gives us a chance to see ourselves…our story as a part of his ordinary time here on earth with us. We can come to identify with those who walked with Jesus in their ordinary lives.

Martha and Mary were certainly living their lives in ordinary time until Jesus came to visit their home. How exciting that must have been for them.

I do not think I could have walked with Jesus back then and considered it ordinary. But maybe it is just because I can now look back and see the larger picture of who he was/is.

Maybe we should have the ‘Healing Time’ or the Teaching Time’ or the ‘Story Time’ or the ‘Forgiveness Time’. We tend to take ordinary time for granted; it is easy to do so.

With the illness and ultimate death of my friend I was forced into a ‘Grief Time’ when I could not see time as ordinary. As it has only been nine months, I now find myself in another time which will be anything but ordinary.

Don’t tell my husband, but sometimes I catch myself fondly looking back on my younger convent days. Life was so simple and yes ordinary back then. I did not even have to make very many decisions myself. Someone else decided when I was to rise in the morning, what I was to eat at each meal, where I was to go, how I was to spend my time etc. My entire life was planned for me back in those days.

Right now in my life I truly wish I had someone else making all of the many decisions I am facing. It is overwhelming when I think about all that must be done in the next month.

I may not know ordinary again for a long time. Today as we celebrate the 4th of July; I think about our many military families faced with the deployment of their spouse. Their lives are anything but ordinary no matter how much they want to have an ordinary life. You can hardly have ordinary when a loved one is miles away serving for our country.

Losing your ordinary life is like facing another death, only this time is not the death of a single person. It is the death of a way of living. For some it might be exciting to be given the opportunity to create a new way of living, but I do not feel that way. My new ordinary thinking is to just make it through one day at a time…thanking God for the many blessings he has given us.  Ordinary or not, life goes on until the day God calls us home to be with him which in turn jolts others from their ordinary lives.

Ordinary time is where we do the most of our living. Live life to the fullest because you never know when what you thought was ordinary will morph into something entirely different.

What do you value most about your ordinary life?

Have you had to accept a ‘new’ ordinary life?



The Gift of a Dream


I just woke up from having the most wonderful dream I have had in a really long time. You know the kind of dream where everything seems so right and put together. The details are vivid and tangible. The sense of touch was believable and comforting.

I do not really know how often I dream since I do not usually remember my dreams. So you can understand why I am so excited by this dream. The other reason I am excited, as you may have guessed, is because it was about my dear friend.

This dream makes me so happy.

Come with me as I try to reconstruct the details of the scene. We were in a house but not necessarily her house. Right as you walked in was a large dining room table much the size of hers when it fully extended for the whole family to fit around it. Someone, not a family member, was decorating the table with a white table cloth.

In an adjacent room was her bed. She was in bed but she did not look very ill as she had for so many months. I was happy to see that she looked more like herself only in bed. The funny thing is she was crocheting. I could see her hands carefully working the crochet hook and the white thread. There is a rhythm to crocheting.

Interesting that she was crocheting since the last hand work she did was counted cross stitch not crocheting.

I was on the bed beside her, talking with her. It was a weird conversation. I seemed to know that she was already dead but she didn’t know. In fact she may have thought I was the one dead because she waved her hand toward me. She waved her hand to see if I was a ghost; which would have no substance. It was comical now that I think about it.

She was looking at me so lovingly so intently. I told her she was going to die in a few months. She did not seem too concerned. She just raised her eyes up glancing for a moment toward me.

The bedside lamp was shining brightly down on the bed. She was dressed mostly all in white and the sheets were soft and white as well. She was covered up to her waist.

If she was in heaven she did not seem to know. Really she did not seem to know that she was even dead.

To prove to her that I was really there I moved close enough to hold her near my heart in a long embrace. It felt so good to hug her again…even if it was only in a dream.

I was able to share what was the future for her. I was the one who had gone back in time but yet she was not aware of all that had transpired. Perhaps it is true that when you die the constraints of time are no longer binding you. After death time has no function no purpose…you simply do not need time.

Her husband was there working in the house since there seemed to be a plumbing problem. Too funny since most men dread having to work on plumbing.

Midway through the dream I go outside to get into my car. It is dark now. The police are in the process of towing my car away…I do not know the reason. I stand there powerless to stop the towing process and away my car goes.

I ask the officer exactly how I was supposed to get home. He suggests I let this stranger passing by take me home which I strongly object to. I was not getting into the car with a stranger. (I learned that as a child!)

So I return to the house. When I go in no one notices that I have been gone. But it seems that I had been gone for some time, maybe a year judging from the conversation I then had with my friend.

I went directly to her side. We once again exchanged eye contact. I could see how the light was dancing off of her pupils…dazzling were her eyes really.

This time our conversation was how she had been dead for nine months. She listened without showing much emotion. She did not seem alarmed or concerned that she was dead. She seemed content and comfortable. She was not in any pain, but she was still in the same bed.

I could hear others in the next room once again making the table ready for another meal. She loved to have people over and entertain. She loved to feed people. It was her way of making you feel accepted in her home. She was always ready to feed you something even when she went vegan. Tofu is not really a favorite of mine.

The part of this dream I really want to hold on to the most was my hugging her. As humans we thrive on touch, as many studies have revealed. We need to feel the warmth of another living body. We need to feel the closeness of another life.

I cannot explain why this embrace is so important to me except that it represented her being alive to me even in a dream. While I do miss her very much I do not long for her to be alive again. Maybe I am just selfish, but I would not want to repeat the last four years of her illness.

The beauty of this dream was also that while I knew she was sick she looked like her cancer free self. Her hair looked healthy once again. It had body to it…it was almost fluffy…light and airy.

I am so thankful I had this dream and that I have recorded it here. I know that with the passage of time details fade into faint memories. I will come back to this entry often and remember how I felt love and peace during this dream.

Not sure where dreams come from, but I do believe they have some valid content for the dreamer. Maybe dreams come from deep within your soul…the brain then draws up the details into your subconscious and creates the personalized dream just for you.

In my waking days I carry her with me;

what a gift to have her with me in my night of restful sleep too.

The Precious Gift of a Dream!

Grafted to My Heart

In spite of how much knowledge we believe we have acquired there is so much we have yet to learn about our own physical bodies. There are so many theories circulating especially about the heart. So I am going to add my own heart theory.

This theory has been circulating through my mind for some time now. I truly believe that when you make the choice to love another person that over time the very makeup of your heart cells is changed.

Now to be clear I am not talking about the love you have for your spouse. This is my one sentence disclaimer.

Loving another person calls your very being to a higher level. I believe with the passage of time as your love for the other person grows you begin to change. With every passing year you gain more understanding and love for the person. The more you are with the person the more you share; the deeper the understanding. Gradually your heart begins to change in response to this love.

I am not talking about the feelings of being in love here; I am talking about the genuine love which comes from God’s commandment to love one another.

There is a visual I keep getting of little minute pieces of the one you love being sprinkled into your cells invigorating them, nourishing them if you will. Love really is good for us. Love keeps us physically healthier.

Certainly the love for God keeps us spiritually healthy. So why wouldn’t we reap physical benefits from loving another human being. We were created to love one another.

Any way back to my vision of the cells in my body…what if as you learn to love another person more and more with time little pieces of their essence take up residence in you and become part of who you physically are as a person. (Forgive me for that terrible run on sentence…) In this manner they would really be with you forever.

When you have loved someone for a long time after they die the parts of them in your cells do not die along with their physical body. This presence is more than a vivid memory of who they were this is a part of your heart.

You carry a part of them with you wherever you go. They have become grafted to your own person. The grafting of plants is very common. I think we can experience a grafting of the spirit of another person.

Once this grafting is firmly connected in the heart it is part of the cell structure.

When this happens you are overheard making comments like, ‘I felt her presence with me’ or ‘she was leading me to _______’. Once you have someone grafted onto your heart they are there as long as your heart has the life giving blood rushing through the veins and arteries.

There are numerous references to the heart in the Bible. The very act of praying comes from the heart. Prayer the raising of one’s mind and heart to God. The heart is the dwelling place where God resides. The heart is our hidden center. The heart is what we honor with our decisions. The heart is the place of truth. The heart is where we first make a decision.

If the heart is where we encounter God and live in relation with him; to me it follows that the heart must also be where we are in relation with all those we love deeply.

Whether or not my little heart theory is correct does not really matter…What matters is how you love another person and how that love gets grafted onto your heart. What matters is how this love changes the very essence of your cells as they are changed to include the other person’s love for you.

Your love for one another changes not only your heart, but the other person’s heart too. You exchange cell grafts. Once you love another person you are never exactly the same ever again.

The love God has for us certainly changed us for all eternity. “For God so loved the world” John 3:16

When Jesus says I will be with you always until the end of time it is precisely because his love has changed our hearts. God is love and he is in our hearts.

As with any other graft you must care for this gift of love.

Buying Green Beans

Last week I was grocery shopping and spied the fresh green beans. As I was grabbing handfuls and trying to stuff them into the plastic bag I had a flashback of another green bean shopping trip.

My friend and I were preparing to cook for one of the many retreats she volunteered us to do. We would always have fun so I really did not mind.

On this particular day the beans were so beautiful she decided we should but the whole case. Now you have to understand that she had years before organized a vegetable co-op. So this was not unusual for us to be shopping together to purchase larger than average quantities of produce.

Well the poor guy at the grocery store was a bit awe struck when she asked him to bring out a whole fresh box of green beabs from the back. Later in the kitchen at the retreat center we carefully picked and sorted the beans together laughing and talking.

If you have ever been part of a cook team for a retreat; the clergy usually find their way into the kitchen…by instinct they know who to get in good with…that’s right….the cook’s.

So as we are working on the beans in walks father with eyes wide telling us how much he enjoyed the teeny tiny beans. Well we might have discarded those tiny guys, but instead we saved him a full dish. He even wanted them raw just as they were hanging on the vine.

Who am I trying to fool here?

I am really not writing just for the sake of preserving a Green Bean story; I am really writing to preserve yet another precious memory that I want to keep. A fond memory…that is just another reminder of her spirit…no one actually cares about buying green beans. No one cares unless you think it is the last time you will ‘buy green beans’ with a friend.

The whole book of the Acts of the Apostles was written in order to preserve the workings of the spirit in the early church. And so we record and journal about those events which hold a special place in our hearts.

While I do not have strong conversion stories to share I do have simple little stories like buying Green Beans together.

The clergy, ‘green bean lover’ has also since passed away to be home with the Lord.

Maybe there are Green Beans in heaven beyond our wildest imagination.

Where are Your Scars?

Just before Christmas I tripped on the sidewalk coming back from the mailbox. Well of course as I am trying to pick myself up from the ground I am also looking around to see if my neighbors saw my tumble. I scratched my glasses, cracked a front tooth and I sliced both of my knees.

Why am I writing about this now? This happened almost exactly four months ago and my knees still have very visible ugly scars. I do not know of these will ever completely disappear. Whenever I bathe or shave my legs I am reminded of the day I tripped on the sidewalk.

I feel the same way about losing my friend only there is not just one scar on my knee. There is this scar that you cannot see with the naked eye, but yet you know it is there. A scar on the skin gradually gets lighter in color…it becomes less sensitive, but it is still there. A scar on the skin loses some of its sensitivity.

Death is like a scar on your heart. At first it is very sensitive and painful,

but gradually the pain lessens.

 Instead of associating the scar on your skin with the cause; the scar of the heart is associated with those things you miss most about the person…things you did together…things that were shared…things that were said…

 There seems to always be something that reminds you of the person…

it is like a scar that never goes away.

I know that there will always be something that reminds me of her. Someday these memories will come to be associated with happy memories. Someday I will look at the scars on my knees and not remember the details of the day I tripped on the sidewalk.

 I look forward to the days of happy memories free of any the pain of loss.

Scars of the heart will eventually soften, but they will forever be a part of who I am.

The Multi-Purpose Room

This Easter week the gospels about the Empty Tomb, the women gathering and weeping, and the angels keeping watch were so touching to me. I have heard and read these stories many times but they had more meaning this year.

It has only been seven months since her death. Or, has been seven months already?

I often vacillate between both attitudes. Life is so much about your perspective. You know the half full half empty glass concept. So this week I have been taken back to the scene of her death.

While it was not an empty tomb by any means; instead it was the middle bedroom slash computer slash sewing slash television room. I guess you could say the multi-purpose room.

As I have reflected this week on the gospel scene depicting the two angels sitting in the empty tomb I see us gathered around her. Some of us were at her feet…some of us were at her head…some were on the floor at her side. She was surrounded on all sides by loved ones.

As God gently drew her back to him we were there keeping watch… praying…  expressing our love for her. Thinking back it really was a beautiful peace-filled scene.

While technically none of us present were angels just the same we honored with much reverence her crossing from death into her new life. The angels keeping watch in the empty tomb of Jesus were also honoring his passage although very different.

Jesus died a violent cruel death. His loved ones were not allowed to touch him while he was hanging on the cross during his final hours of suffering. How heart breaking that must have been for Mary.

I feel that we were most blessed to have been present for her death. We touched her, caressed her, spoke words of love to her. I like to think our presence somehow made the transition more peaceful for her.

We gathered by her side for her, but we also gathered together for one another. We know that we will never forget this time we had together. Each time since then when I have had the occasion to hug one who was present that evening it is a special connected embrace. An embrace of compassionate knowing I guess you might say.

I think back to Mary and the apostles, how they must have felt a similar connection having shared in witnessing the crucifixion.

While I do not expect to experience any visual appearances from my friend; I have experienced the feeling of the spirit of her presence. I feel sometimes as if I am blind. When you are blind they say you sense things in a more intense manner. The mind and body compensate for what would normally be received through seeing.

Perhaps death is like a ‘blindness’ so the heart is compensated through other avenues. It is beautiful really to hold these things in my heart. It is also a blessing to share them with others.

I pray that whatever God puts on my heart to write here will give comfort to someone else; if not now sometime in the future. Perhaps years from now someone will stumble across this blog just when they need it most. So I pray for those people today…future readers who must also embark on this journey of grief.

There is no way to escape the grief…you may attempt to ignore it for awhile, but it hangs around. It is not packed neatly inside your heart; it is sometimes more like a natural disaster you must wait out.

The Multi-Purpose Room is our Sacred Room…her spirit will remain there for us to delight in remembrance. It is one place we can come to honor her as the angels sat in the empty tomb of Jesus with love.