Sunday, December 28, 2008

An En-Couraging Verse -- "All Soul's Day"

The more I'm involved in this End-of-life and Grief Coaching work, the more I'm realizing how many "learning opportunities" our society has in these areas. We are a culture that for the most part would like to ignore death and grief at any cost. We would rather do almost anything else than speak about the inevitable. How ironic, especially since we consider ourselves to be an "advanced" culture...

This work is actually some of the most important work we could be doing while we are alive. A volunteer firefighter on Whidbey Island who happens to be Buddhist once told me that in his religious thought, birth was the difficult part; "death is easy, because we have the rest of our lives to prepare for it!" he commented. So, it is critical that we find ways to create courage and speak creatively around these still unpopular and rather taboo topics.

Recently, I was online, visiting a local death midwife's website, and I found this most beautiful poem called "All Soul's Day". Thank you, Marilyn Strong and D.H. Lawrence, for reminding me how gentle we need to be around our dying; and how necessary it is to be ready for it when it comes. I love the idea of helping each other prepare a "little ship" for our voyage to the great beyond. I invite you, too, to savor this delightfully creative verse about death and the hereafter:

Be careful, then, and be gentle about death.
For it is hard to die, it is difficult to go through
The door, even when it opens.
And the poor dead, when they have left the walled
And silvery city of the now hopeless body
Where are they to go, Oh where are they to go?
They linger in the shadow of the earth.
The earth's long conical shadow is full of souls
That cannot find the way across the sea of change.
Be kind, Oh be kind to your dead
And give them a little encouragement
And help them to build their little ship of death.
For the soul has a long, long journey after death
To the sweet home of pure oblivion.
Each needs a little ship, a little ship
And the proper store of meal for the longest journey.
Oh, from out of your heart
Provide for your dead once more, equip them
Like departing mariners, lovingly.

-- D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

Blessings be upon us as we say goodbye to one year, and welcome in a new and hopeful one -- another death and rebirth experience that can help us prepare for life's last great adventure! Happy "releasing" into 2009, Dancing heart~~~

P.S. If you are local, please note that I will be leading a Day Seminar on "Joyful Transitions" on the second day of the New Year -- this coming Friday -- at the Nonviolent Communication Training Center in the Greenwood Neighborhood of Seattle. Please see details on how to register on the Scheduled Events page of my website.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

No One Can Predict What Will Happen

A lovely synchronistic re-connection happened to me last week. I literally "ran into" a friend I hadn't seen in months at the SF Airport upon heading to the Big Island in Hawaii. My friend is in the midst of caring for his 94-year-old mother who is receiving hospice care. As we talked further about his situation a few days later over some lunch, my friend shared with me that he had made a rather magical connection with a well respected Emergency Care doctor in a coffee shop earlier this year. As soon as this doctor heard that he was caring for his dying mother, she told him the following four things:

1) You are on a severe learning curve;
2) No one can predict what will happen (despite many who may think that they can!);
3) You are under more stress than you think you are; and
4) You must do things to take care of your stress, both for you and for the sake of your mother who you are caring for.

My friend acknowledged that he has used the doctor's words as his mantra as he's been caring for his mother over the course of the year. His mother is very close to death now; and the words still ring true for him. I wanted to share them with you here, as they ring true for me also. As I have mentioned before, if you are caring for a loved one, please remember to take very good care of yourself. Your life (and your loved one's life) depend on it.

Have a wonderful, joyous holy-day season. And Blessed Solstice, Dancing heart~~~

p.s. While on the Big Island, I also met Phillip Jones, a hospice spiritual counselor, psychotherapist, and author of a beautiful book titled Light on Death: The Spiritual Art of Dying. I invite you to take a look at it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Number One Job for Caregivers: Take Good Care of Yourself!

Recently I put together an article on Spirituality and Caring for the person dealing with Alzheimer's Disease. As I wrote the article, I realized that the most important thing a caregiver can do is take good care of him or herself, so that they can keep doing the important work of care giving that they do. Here are suggestions I might offer anyone who is caring for their loved one, especially during the holidays.

1) Do you sometimes take time out to grieve and let the emotions flow?
2) Do you have good friends and/or a counselor you can completely “be yourself” with?
3) Do you have a spiritual life that you are developing? It’s good if you have a spiritual community you worship with as well as a private spiritual practice that you honor daily -- or at least frequently -- in your life.
4) How and when do you have fun? Who are the people in your life that you can “play with”? Are there ways that you can foster humor and laughter in your life?
5) How and when do you take time to relax? Did you know that something as simple as holding each of your fingers for 3 – 4 minutes can help you relax (See p. 198 of my 2nd edition book)? You could also take a bath with some Lavender or Frankincense oil sprinkled in to help you relax and connect with Spirit – your inner wealth of joy, peace, harmony, and courage! (Frankincense is a wonderful oil to help your loved one when he or she may be belligerent. Simply place a few drops of it in the palm of your hands, rub your hands together and smell the oil yourself. Then, make sure that you are in close proximity to your loved one and that they get to smell the aroma, too. You should see them relaxing very shortly. Another thing you might try is to visualize your loved one surrounded by the color pink. Pink is a wonderful color to help sooth anyone who is stressed…)
6) Who and what nourishes you? Do you take time to go to classes and/or practice any of your hobbies? Creativity, along with gratitude, is one of the fastest ways out of fear (and depression), so find new and fun ways to be creative in your life.

Here's to you taking better care of yourself in this Season when we celebrate Love. May you always know the Beauty, Love, and Light who you are, Dancing heart~~~

p.s. You might also take a look at the bibliography I offer specifically for the caregiver on pp. 241-242 (2nd edition). Here's the link to the bibliography on my website.