with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridge to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
in a country up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is. (From Annie Lamott, Traveling Graces)
As I live the stark realities of the COVID19 Pandemic in my work as a healthcare chaplain and my life as a woman living, loving and caring for others, I reach the limits of my mind’s ability to respond. And from there, I am called back to my heart’s way of sustaining in the midst of so much pain, sorrow and uncertainty. Returning to the depths of my heart’s way of being, I reconnect with a true sense of my connection to the hearts of those who serve, those who suffer, those who survive and those who die. I meet the mystical truth that my heart and the Heart of the universe are united in You – source and sustenance of all life; the Living Presence within all presence.
I find courage and strength to open and hold the heart of this hurting world. Through the wisdom and strength of Love, the eyes of my heart open and see You as the very heart of the hurting world ~ the place of blessing, the place of grace ~ the sacred place.
And touching this sense of the goodness of life, I look around me and I see the countless expressions of love’s treasure unfolding everywhere. People serving and self-sacrificing to tend the heart of the hurting world. And my heart sees clearly the Living Presence in every presence and my soul breathes hope.
This is a sacred Holy Week where I’ve attended to others and dived deeper in my own journey while continuing to seek my path into some kind of rhythm within this contemplative respite that envelopes our days.
Good Friday is intense for me … oh how I struggle with how to express what calls to me … what to say … how to say it…. and deeply wanting to give witness. I want to give witness to the awesome humility of an all suffering, all loving G*d. A Grace G*d who pours forth love. As I watch once more the unimaginable pain and sorrow, anguish, abandonment and agony of the cross, I am brought to my knees. I cannot get my mind around this and it is only on my knees that I can pause and wait for my heart to lead me showing me the way of love. And for me, this way is deeply rooted in the women who meet and mirror love and compassion at the foot of the cross. This is a manifestation of love being offered and birthing transforming love in return in the midst of darkness. This is a sacred sharing of G*d’s grace received. This is the intimacy and solidarity of love.This helps me to endure this moment of Holy Week. Tethered to Jesus in and through love, these women hold him in a mutual web of love staying with him and each other. This I am compelled to witness, this invites me to hold it within my own heart. This shows me the way of love and compassion.
So, as the many email invitations to participate in this spiritual encounter … zoom into that support group … arrive to help navigate this Holy Week celebrated at home, I am unplugging … honoring my simple daily practices. Contemplating and lighting my single candle … a metaphor for my own soul …that burns away the veil …allowing me to see, hear and attend to the ineffable mystery of this sacred time. I make my journey in solitude within the depths of my own secret heart. I allow grief to wash away my desire to turn away and let it lead me back to what is truly essential.
And when the human hearts are breaking
under sorrow’s iron rod,
Then we find the self-aching
deep within the heart of G*d.
Through our weeping, May we wash away our desires and return to what is truly essential.
And so it may be as we navigate this time of uncertainty and unknowing that our acceptance of our weakness illuminates the path to strength and resilience. As we accept the suffering of our individual and collective experience, we enter a way of knowing that comes not from security and control but rather, from opening to what happens and awaiting new life and the sacred journey of transformation. Experience teaches us that this is a day by day process. Our experience guides us into a real return to the essential truth of suffering.
May we enter our experience bearing what is ours to bear, and surrendering what we cannot bear to the divine wisdom of our Source.
Well of Grief David Whyte
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else.
May this offering nourish and sustain you on your way — wherever you are in this and whatever you are being asked to do.
In the day when I cried, you answered me, and strengthened me…. ~ psalm 138:3
As a healthcare chaplain working in the midst of our current pandemic, I am in awe of the myriad ways Grace God works to propel me beyond what I could ever do on my own. In honoring the social isolation protocols of our current healthcare scenario, I am invited and challenged to companion others in new and unexpected ways. I am thrust into situations where what used to unfold in the intimacy of a one-to-one encounter with a patient now unfolds with multiple medical personnel; these colleagues now collaborate with me to offer my spiritual companionship through them to the patient in situ. This often involves me offering presence to a patient via the telephone which is usually on speaker mode.
To enter this, I’ve had to relinquish my sense of presence as that which I offer through my physical being and body language with the patient, and move into a much more nuanced dance of presence. For me, this has levied my own poverty of spirit in a way that has humbled me, filled me with awe, and revealed the gifts of a Grace that bring me to my knees. These are sacred exchanges where God’s grace pours forth in amazing and powerful ways. For me, for the patient, and for those who enter this holy exchange with us. The love that motivates my humble offering to the patient births a transforming love in return – the sacred sharing of Grace received.
I am softened and stretched wider open by the shimmering, numinous spirit of my encounters that fill my waiting heart with wonder and draw me forward … beyond the bounds of where I could ever go alone.