Everyday Spirituality

Posts tagged ‘memories’

The Musical Score of Life

There are definitely times in my life where I need to listen to the sound track of a whole movie I’ve enjoyed. There is something to be said about listening to the sound track without the visual support. If you have seen the movie previous to listening to the sound track then your memory will be triggered by the music. But even if you have not seen the movie, a good sound track will give you the feeling of what was happening.

We are not regular movie goers, so it was a treat to go this past weekend. We saw the last showing of Snow White and the Huntsman. While loosely based on the well known fairy tale it was visually appealing, but the music was especially fitting as the movie unfolded. The musical score for a movie must capture all aspects of the action, but it must also bring to life the emotional content of the scene.

I am writing about this because I was moved during the movie and carried into the Sanctuary scene as well as the battle scenes. The Sanctuary was like a little piece of heaven and the music played a big part in transporting me there. As the character walked through the forest my heart felt like it too was blooming along with the animated forest creatures.

A musical score is very much like life. There are times of great intensity….times of conflict…times of tenderness…times of peace…times of sorrow…times of doubt…times of distrust…

Compositions of a musical score depict contrast and tension in a matter of a few short minutes. But I often find this to be true in life too. Maybe my life scenes and emotions don’t change in three minutes, but the fluctuations are very real.

In the movie when the ‘darkness’ falls upon the castle all life seems to cease and the song birds are replaced with squawking black ravens. I can identify with this concept, but in fairy tales you can typically count on a happy ending.

What if there was no such thing as ‘happily ever after’? Would we look at life with different eyes? Would be still have hope? Is there supposed to be ‘happily ever after’? Maybe not. If you have happily ever after give thanks to God and rejoice.

Watching a movie in a dark theater allows you to escape from your own reality and enter into the reality portrayed before you. It is so easy to allow yourself to be drawn into the story; you may not even realize it until something startles you.

Sometimes it is the change of the music that jolts you into the reality that you are sitting in a theater. In a movie you can forget about time…you can enter into a different era.

There are times in life when you may wish it was just a movie and you could get up in a couple hours and walk out. I have been in that place several times recently.

Please, God, just let this be a movie of someone else’s life. I just want to gaze at the silver screen and listen to the music. I just want to let the music carry me through this story and then go back to my normal life.

There were times during this movie where just the beauty along with the music brought tears to my eyes. I literally wanted the movie to slow down while they were in the Sanctuary so I could have more time in that space. I felt like it was a space of great peace, love, and healing. It was secluded and appeared to be a safe place. A place much like one might envision when beginning to meditate. You could let go there and just let the beauty carry you through the trees among the flowers, birds, and the butterflies. You could surrender and fully experience the scene.

In the future, I will use the memory of this scene to recall these feelings of peace and love.

The music played while Snow White sleeps in death is so perfectly heart wrenching; the somber violin strings pull you up into the realm of hope. The harp almost caresses your very soul with its delicate tones. The horns announce a new dawn and the crescendo lifts up your spirits.

Many times I have been inspired to write while music is playing, but this time the music is further supported by the movie scenes.

The music builds toward the final battle which is where we sometimes find ourselves, on the brink of a battle. Perhaps it is a battle for health, your spirit, your job, or your heart. We must draw our strength to carry on from wherever it comes to us. Today, as in the past, I am drawing from music; the musical score of Snow White and the Huntsman by James Newton Howard.

May you be blessed to encounter those things which inspire you to look up or reach deep inside for what really matters in the end. May you find your ‘happily ever after’…perhaps it is only in the way we view our life.


Click here if you would like to hear the beautiful Sanctuary Forest Track

from Snow White and the Huntsman

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!

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.

Flashes of the Past

I have been known to enjoy some science fiction movies from time to time. I really like The Abyss it is the most beautiful love story. Keeping that in mind I wish there were a way to virtually project into real-time past memories as you called them to mind or as they come forward. I know it sounds silly and that is why we have movie cameras…to capture those moments we want to preserve.

I have had a couple experiences recently not of déjà vu exactly but similar. My friend and I took our ministry to several other parishes beside our own. A few years ago we gave a women’s retreat based on the powerful story of the Woman Caught in Adultery at another parish.

When I had the occasion to visit the parish again I was not really thinking about the possibility of being in the very same room, but as it turned out we were. It felt surreal walking into this room again. So much of what we had done together in that space came flooding back into my body. I almost had to stop and take a deep breath before crossing the threshold. We had also presented an Advent series about the Blessed Mother in that very same room.

As I sat in the space I wanted to close my eyes and relive every detail of our time together in that exact room. I could picture us standing in the front of the room together walking the women into the scripture story that cold winter Saturday morning. I could hear us talking about Jesus writing in the sand. Then I could see the women coming forward with their sand during the closing ritual.

It was an emotionally charged day and now those emotions are mixed inside me with the emotions of her absence. We can never do that presentations together again and it was my favorite. It had been the very first day of prayer we did for our own parish. Even my mother and sister were present.

Memories are malleable to me you can take them in your hand. They can bring you comfort in times of sadness. Sometimes a memory will materialize when you least expect and surprise you. Sometimes memories have a way to make you appreciate even more something you once had.

The last time we presented together was for the team of women’s retreat for our parish. I am already beginning to emotionally prepare for my return visit to this person’s home as I have been asked to present to another retreat group in this person’s beautiful home.

I guess I am just being sentimental. I know sooner or later I will not be having these déjà vu experiences any longer. As more time passes there is less and less of a connection. Not that the person is any less missed or less loved it’s just that other memories get stored on top.

The most recent research on the brain and memory indicates that our memories are stored in several places throughout our brain. When we recall an event our incredible brain reconstructs the bits and pieces of information into one unified memory. But it makes sense then that occasionally we have missed some of the details or ‘remembered’ something incorrectly. Our memories are not fool-proof, but recording details in a journal is a great tool to help reconstruct an event. Of course pictures are another excellent way to preserve memories. Movies are probably the most accurate way to preserve something you want to remember many years later. I know many people scrapbook which becomes a wonderful keepsake for generations to come.

We have an amazing brain that is why just walking into a room can trigger the details of something that occurred in that location. I am sure you have all had the experience of heading to another room to get something only to reach the room with no memory of why you were going there. The easiest way to remember is to return to the place where you had the thought of what you wanted from the other room.

I wonder what our life would be like if we could not ever remember anything. I think they have made a movie about something like that, maybe 100 First Dates. I am not sure.

I do cherish my memories they conjure up all sorts of emotions within my soul. It makes me happy to remember the presentations my friend and I did together. And it makes me sad to think we will never be presenting together again.

The most vivid memories we can recall are often colored by a strong emotion…love…fear…joy…sadness. Strong emotions embed the memory into our psyche giving it a much longer retention rate.


I pray for those whose loved ones suffer from memory loss. Dementia is a devastating disease especially when the person is the picture of health. It is hard to experience the apparent ‘death’ of the person you once loved because of Alzheimer’s, a most devastating disease for family members.

We actually rely a great deal on our memory. Take a moment and express gratitude for your memory. You might want to recall one of your most precious memories to date.

Close your eyes and try to recall as many of the details as possible. Who is there…where you were…what it looked like…what could you hear…what were your feelings at the time?

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.

~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?

~ The Numbness of Grief ~

Sometimes I just want to go to the top of a mountain and scream at the top of my lungs. There seems to be no release. Days go by and the heaviness of grief is numbing. I can understand why people get caught up in drugs and even those who cut themselves…sometimes you just want to feel something intense. Day after day you guard your emotions.

If I could dance I would be putting my feelings into some wildly expressive dance where everything could pour forth in silence. Reaching out far, stretching up high. The emotions could explode from the very core of my soul. Would dance soothe this deep inner pain? I can only perform this dance in the recesses of my mind while listening to music repeatedly.


The numbness of grief has a pain unique to itself unlike any other. It is a pain that sears your from the inside out. A pain you cannot hide from…a pain you cannot run away from.

If I was an accomplished pianist I would sit at the piano and play with such passion anyone listening would experience the intensity of the magnitude of my pain. Composer/Pianist, Michael Allen Harrison in his composition Fly Away best captures this state of grief for me. It is a heaviness played in the low bass clef and yet there is a light melody creating a delicate balance and then the oboe comes in with tears of lament. The tempo is like a solid drone. Life continues, the sun rises and the sun sets, but it will never be quite the same. The drum beat keeps everything moving forward with heavy footsteps.


Grief makes you want to turn yourself inside out, exposing who you truly are inside. I am at the foot of the cross with the Blessed Mother weeping and holding on to what I was taught and have believed since childhood. I am not alone, but I my tears are held close to my heart.

Do others have the right to enter into your personal space of grief?


Sometimes I think about taking a feather pillow and ripping it open; throwing all of the feathers into the air. Watching the soft white feathers slowly, quietly drifting one by one back to the ground, I find a comforting thought.


Tenderness is how I treasure the many memories…the times that can no longer be shared.

I have been reading Job and the Mystery of Suffering by Richard Rohr today and listening to music. Throughout the book of Job it is easy to identify with how abandoned he feels by God while at the same time being convicted of God’s love for him.

“If we take happiness from God’s hand,

must we not take sorrow, too?” Job 2:10


I had no plan to write these words today; they just flooded into my heart. I really cannot comprehend what my life would be like without music. Music is a spiritual experience for me almost mystical. Music is a retreat in the space of a few precious minutes. Heaven surely has ‘The’ most beautiful music. All of the different instruments harmonizing together remind me of the Body of Christ, the angels and saints worshiping and praising God together in harmony.

I sit with grief as my daily companion, both day and night. Grief is in my dreams. Grief walks beside me like the grim reaper.

I choose life.

I choose to walk in the light.

I choose to embrace all that is part of my journey here on this earth.


Below is a link for Fly Away by Michael Allen Harrison

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Restless…Body, Mind, and Soul

This has been a difficult few days. Sitting…waiting…just “Be-ing” in the moment and yet at the same time feeling restless. Where is this restlessness coming from? I watch my friend tossing and turning in her hospital bed. She cannot get comfortable too many tubes too many interruptions… vital signs. Even the slightest move…even in slow motion takes every ounce of energy from her frail body. I try to help, but where do I place my hands to not cause her more discomfort?  Sometimes even the next breath takes all of her energy.

I look into her eyes. I feel her frustration and pain? I speak to her in gentle kind loving words…how is this? Is your head comfortable on the pillow? I gently bring the covers up around her shoulders…trying to keep out the cold air. She is so cold. I wish I could warm her with the very breath from my own body.

When I was little I remember having little ribbon streamers attached to the end of my bicycle handle bars. When you rode fast into the wind the streamers would blow and twirl around. It was so much fun!

We did not have air condition when I was little so a fan in every room was the norm. You could tie thin ribbons on the grill of the fan. Once you turned on the fan the ribbons would blow out from the grill and ripple in the wind.

I was just across the hall from my friend in her home. She has finally gone into a deep restful sleep. I am tossing and turning…restless… I cannot get into a comfortable position.

Then it happened; as my body settled down my mind entered into this restless state. Memories, but not like a movie or a scrapbook page. These memories came as ribbon streamers. Each ribbon a different color bearing the written account of a time we’ve had together. I could clearly see the printed words some larger than others…some written in bold type.  

The ribbons were blowing, swirling, dancing perhaps in my mind. Swirling as if some undetected source was generating a breeze in my head keeping the streamers in constant motion…restless…

Eventually we are both taken into sleep…taken away from our own uncomfortable restlessness of body and mind.

I wonder, if this restlessness is part of the dying process…is this restlessness a symptom of our resistance to surrender? Sleep became the salve for her restlessness and eventually for mine too.

St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.”

I know in my heart that God has a plan…we just need to be patient within our restlessness…more than once Jesus calmed the restless waters…speaking words of peace…Be not afraid, for I am with you. The familiar music drifts into my heart”…I go before you always…”

How do you handle restlessness in your life?



The Empty Chair


This morning I entered this small room in the back of the chapel. I was touched by the sunshine streaming through the colored pieces of stained glass. Each piece of the colored glass combined together creating a beautiful scene of leaves…

This room is usually used as a space dedicated to reconciliation. A sacred place where one can enter to return to the holy grace of God. Most of the time sunshine is not pouring through these pieces of glass.

I wonder. If each person realized that chair had been gently painted with the colors of grace would they approach it differently? I wonder?

This is not an ordinary chair. It waits for you to be seated in the presence of God through the presence of the priest. It waits; already filled with the essence of grace. It waits just for you to come and be renewed with God’s love for you.

Another thought crossed my mind as I reflect on this empty chair painted in the colors of sunlight. What if after we die impressions of our goodness remained behind as washes of colored sunlight?

This chair is not empty. It only appears so at first glance. Look deeper. Look with new eyes. Look with your heart and surrender to peace.

This year, as you call to mind those who have gone before you to eternal rest, I invite you to see the colors they have left in your heart. Colors of who they were splashed as precious memories in your soul. Memories you can return to for comfort and joy.

If I could capture the beauty and love of my maternal grandmother in colored light it would be happy pastel colors imbued with simple joy. The blues of tenderness…the pinks of love…the yellows of laughter…the greens of faithfulness and so many more hues.

Are we not to be reflections of God’s love?

How does this empty color washed chair speak to you?

Let your reflections wash over this page…Please leave a comment to inspire those who come to read after you. Allow your essence to bless those around you.