Transfiguration Morning…

Blued-eyed sky and Sunlight

There is Peace here.
This morning the sky is blued-eyed — cloudless and bright…  sunlight has clothed the wetland wood across my gravel road and every green hue is alive with  its touch.
It is an August morning — the Feast of the Transfiguration — and my world awoke to this quiet beauty — the breathing of the sea-tides echoing in my chest… the rise and fall of my own rhythm — my heart keeping the beat.

I am sitting in this Quiet.
There are dishes waiting in my sink — remnants of a quick dinner before writing my paper that was due at midnight… they have been patient and will soon be clean again, but they are quiet as they wait.
The boys have had their morning meds with breakfast, the cats are resting from their nocturnal play…
In this moment nothing is clamoring for my attention.

I can feel this new day washing over my corner of the world — what is this magic that keeps us spinning through time — ever forward, ever onward? Is it this Quiet – this Foundation-of-Everything holding us all together? It is holding me here — cradling us all, just waiting to be recognized… to be known.

“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”

Inside, we’re all longing to be mystics — longing to know and be known — to sit in the Silence of ourselves surrounded by the bustle and noise of living. We’re all yearning for connection — to have Light clothe us in our innate hues and reveal our beauty to the world. Can’t you see the brightness of summer’s-light in the eyes of those around you? We’re all seeking Communion… Be gentle in your gaze — soft, compassionate eyes are the key to sight here.  Be kind, and See.

“Be still, and know…”

#augustmorning
#feastoftransfiguration
#quiet
#bekindandsee
#bestillandknow

America the Beautiful…

The Sea at St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea after Sunday Mass

The sanctuary was packed at St. Mary’s by the Sea this morning. Our small town has been inundated with visitors for the 4th of July holiday weekend, which means our Masses were full… It was like playing piano for an army — every voice raised in song together… so intense.
We  sang America the Beautiful as our closing song — every verse at the top of our lungs —  with spontaneous applause at the end and happy murmurs echoing among the crowd as they began to make their way outside. It wasn’t necessarily the song itself — it was the fact that everyone knew it well from their childhood, and everyone felt the joy of an entire building singing together… that connection…

Outside the sunlight was blinding, and everything it touched felt bright and beautiful — the faces of strangers, the grasses on the knoll above the beach, the waves in their retreat at low tide… the statue of Mary overlooking us all as a mother does… And myself – still trembling with the leftover adrenaline from the intensity of playing for everyone to sing — my heart still racing with the fullness of it all.

Our world can often seem full of darkness — but then, there are moments that remind us there is so much Beauty here — this world is truly charged with Glory… each person lit with Life – shining with the Love they were created to be… to know… to give… 
I’m afraid so many of us are missing the point — missing the mark… there really is no room for anything but Love in our interactions with others. We were made to bring Peace.

Be kind — it’s All Grace.

“O Strength in the flight of the heron,
Joy in the song of the lark,
Peace in the mists of the morning,
And Light in the leaves of the Park!
Everywhere shineth Thy Beauty,
Yet everywhere only in part –
Come, Holy Spirit, I pray Thee,
And dwell with Thy Flame in my heart!”
John Bradburne, Angelus (1958) [547]

The Magic of Music…

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Beautiful red leaves in front of our library…

This afternoon the boys both had holds in at the library, so the plan was for us to run over there really quick and then come home to enjoy our books. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon — the air was crisp, and the trees were showing off their lovely red and yellow leaves. The Professor went ahead of us down the hall to where the “books on hold” arrivals are kept — ours are at the very end of a long hall by our library’s community room. All of sudden he came flying back… gesticulating wildly for us to hurry up. There was music coming from the community room! Just then I remembered that our library has a “String Along” a couple Sundays a month — I keep meaning to check it out, maybe bring my guitar too, but then I forget about it again. This time we stumbled upon it… they were playing, “I’ll Fly Away,” one of The Philosopher’s favorite songs, which was reason enough for me to take us in where we could listen for awhile.

When I stepped into the room, I couldn’t believe how many different kinds of stringed instruments there were. It was obviously a rather informal gathering, and people continued to come in with their instruments while we were there  — all different ages… and it appeared that they were at different levels of experience as well. But everyone was having so much fun — guitars, banjos, a mandolin, violins… even a huge bass cello — all making music together! I definitely need to bring my guitar sometime — when I have a free Sunday afternoon.

There is something about making music with others that creates connections almost instantly.  Music is such a powerful force for union and communication — it brings us together and creates an immediate sense of community — there’s nothing quite like it. (This is why I love to bring my guitar on my hospice visits — even if my patient has trouble communicating, we can share music together, and we can connect through the rhythm and rhyme of song.) The boys and I were only in the room with these complete strangers for a few minutes, but we were very welcome, and invited to come back as if we were long lost family. It takes only moments of sharing a song to begin to draw people into real relationships… The power of music is like some kind of communion magic — bringing people together effortlessly.

Tonight (or early morning as the case may be), I am so thankful for the surprise blessings that come my way… I don’t consider what good things may be around the corner in my life very often… though I spend far too much time thinking about what could go wrong –such a common problem as a human. I am just so human

But tonight I’m grateful…

  1. scarlet trees with leaves of flame…
  2. the wonder of public libraries…
  3. Pat-me letting me know The Philosopher needs me — she’s so good at her job…
  4. shopping for groceries with my hubby… :)
  5. late night blogging… ;)
  6. fried egg sandwiches…
  7. my favorite purple blanket…
  8. my hubby’s sense of humor…
  9. laughing my head off this morning… :)
  10. listening to my boys laugh tonight… :)

It’s all Grace…

Hospice Heroes…

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There’s something special about the people who go into hospice volunteering. We’re just such a unique group of people — with a distinct outlook on life. My co-volunteers all come different backgrounds, we are different ages, and we’ve lived very different lives — yet, get us together in a room and it’s hard to express with words the kind of connection we seem to have… there’s a recognition of each other as having something in common in our interior worlds — these are kindred spirits in the truest sense.

It’s a special kind of person who volunteers to spend time with the dying and finds it a gift… We know that what little we do for them is returned ten fold in what they give to us — what we learn from them. Death is an intense part of life, in many diverse ways, and it is such a privilege to be allowed to spend someone’s last days with them — however many you get to have together. People who aren’t called to this work, don’t seem to understand how much we receive from it.

This morning we had our monthly volunteer support meeting — a time when we are invited to get together and share how this work is impacting our lives… to make sure we’re processing it well and not burning out. It’s a safe time to tell our stories, laugh together, cry a little together, and build relationships with other people who love working with the dying.  I’m always amazed at how different we all are — as we sit in our circle and share our lives — and yet how much love and compassion we have to give. These are some truly awe inspiring people. I have so much respect for them — for how they are trying to grow… where they are in life… and how they have allowed this work to shape them. These people are some of my real life heroes…

As I listened to them today, I found myself wishing I could share these amazing individuals with others. I would love to take them and show the world what humans can be. Rocking in my chair in the circle, I found myself thinking, “This is humanity – right here in this circle.” Profound emotion, compassion, kindness… connection, and wanting to find ways to deepen that sense of connected presence with others — this is what we are called to… small things with great love.  And the more love accompanying our small things — the greater their influence and meaning. Silence practiced in loving presence can create a deep connection — and yet it seems to be something so small that it isn’t actually anything at all! More people need to understand what a gift it is to truly connect with someone else.

Tonight, as I come to the end of this very busy day, I’m just in awe of how blessed I am to be part of something so beautiful. There are many people who work in hospice — there are social workers, chaplains, the amazing nurses, clinicians, and administrators — but the volunteers are the secret super power of hospice. These are the people who spend hours with patients — listening to them, advocating for them, encouraging them, just being with them… and loving… Hospice would not be a success without volunteers — these are the heroes of hospice, and the world needs to know… These individuals have learned so much from being companions with the dying, they have grown, they have deepened — the world isn’t worthy of them…

I am so grateful to sit among their ranks…

So much to be grateful for…

  1. Lyft drivers!
  2. the hospitality of a co-volunteer…
  3. COFFEE in adorable little Starbucks mugs… :) (I’m telling you, these things were cute!)
  4. old rocking chairs…
  5. David Whyte poetry recited…
  6. my Volunteer Coordinator — a truly amazing woman…
  7. extra time to visit on the ride home…
  8. planning library trips…
  9. surprising The Professor’s piano teacher… :)
  10. beautiful Pip — a sweet-hearted pup who let us invade her house this morning… :)

It’s all Grace…

Music and Memories…

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It’s been over a year since I became involved in this beautiful work with people on their end-of-life journeys, and since I knew all of us who come to this work bring our unique gifts to share, I trusted that I would find my way in companionship with the dying as long as I was simply myself. It didn’t take me long to discover where my gifts would be most useful.

 

From the time I was young music played a big part of my life – my grandma sang, my father can play any instrument he gets his hands on – music has always surrounded me. Over the last 20 years, my guitar has traveled with me across the United States repeatedly – it has been a constant presence to remind me of who I am and  where I have come from. So, it was only natural to bring it with me to share what brings me joy with those I am given the opportunity to visit. I wasn’t sure how it would work out the first time I walked into a room with it, but the patients  I have visited have all been very happy to have me play and sing for them. Some have even remembered the harmonies to the old hymns as they sang along!

 

As my time with them passes, patients add their voices to mine for shorter and shorter periods of time during our visits, but so far they continue to sing at least a little at every visit before drifting into a peaceful sleep. Sometimes as I play I seem to hear a voice join mine, but then look up to discover that the patient is actually asleep. The rest of the time I play and sing for them as I would for my dear ones who are sleeping, and every once in awhile they’ll surprise me and “wake up” to join in on a song.  There have even been precious moments where family members have been there to share the songs with us and been able to get a glimpse of a younger version of their loved one through the music.  This music has not only given us our own unique communication and relationship, it also creates a precious atmosphere of peace and tranquility — the sound seems to hang in the air where we can breathe it — where it can become part of us. Our life journeys have been woven together during these visits, and in a very real way, they have now become part of my life story.

 

In this sacred work my relationship to music has facilitated my connection to patients, creating the “way” for companionship that I was looking for when I began.  Even when words fail, music and song have given us the “heart-to-heart conversation” we need. I am able to walk into a patient’s room with no expectations and play whatever it seems they need to hear at the time. Whether we start out with something upbeat that they can clap along to, or it’s obvious that they are in need of something more like a lullaby to soothe them to sleep, my guitar and I can provide whatever is necessary at the moment. It has been such a privilege to become a part of these lives as they have become part of my own, and now I find myself treasuring the memories we create together more than I ever thought possible when I started. I’m so grateful for the blessings this work has given me over this past year and so thankful that my life path has brought me here.  It has all been such Grace.