Empathy

I have been volunteering with a hospice organization. At first, I was not sure what I should say when sitting by the bedside of someone who is leaving this earthly realm very soon. After weeks of trying to convince myself that I had something of value that I could give to the hospice residents, I came across this poem by Susan Frybort. It helped me realize that my presence, silently sitting and listening could be what I might offer. This could be a soothing salve.

I hope when I take my last breath, someone is sitting beside me. Not with words of wisdom that might make my departure easier. That would be too heavy a burden to ask of anyone. But rather, their attentiveness. Just their being.

Empathy – spoken poetry

EMPATHY

by Susan Frybort

Today I woke feeling my ordinariness next to me.

I never wrote a masterpiece, painted a perfect landscape
or played an etude.
I cannot beat the African healing drum like a shaman
to intercede between the realms.
I don’t know how to touch people to resolve them of all their inner conflict or traumas.
I never looked into a crystal and saw the divine…
I’m not a psychologist,
a therapist, a counselor or a saint.
And Das is not part of my name,
my name is ordinary.
As I thought about how the opportunity to tend to a painful wound
as if it were an injured plant
or delicately administer soothing salve to another earthly soul
would not be mine because I do not possess the official requirements,
I felt a particular sadness,
as though I were, somehow, not enough.

Then suddenly I remembered everything is well within me.

For I know that all my certainties
and all that has ever been established before me
are in sacred correspondence.
I know about the stars and how they gather as constellations
to guide the wanderer through all the eras.
I know of the bamboo that will not flower until many years pass by
and how the blossom gives its life as nourishment and protection
so that the tiny seedling within may push forward and grow.
I know there are mysteries not fully understood.
I know each life holds a unique path,
eventually drawing to an end for all.

And when I sat at the bedside of an elderly woman dying,
or on my knees next to a fading animal struggling for her last breaths
after a long earthly journey,
there was no difference in my attentiveness.
I felt equal compassion for both,
then wept the same mournful tears.

And I know for certain that when I look into another human being,
whether they have eyes to see or not,
I can behold them.

I can view the hurt in them and feel the wounds in me.
It is a pain that agonizes quietly inside
as we share it…
So I reach out to comfort them.
These are the opportunities to extend
and touch another soul with all that is in me now.

And that is good enough for me.

Stay

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known …suffering…. and have found their way out of the depths.  (They) have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.”   ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Today I am sharing a poem from a wonderful book I have recently come across that has brought me hope and comfort. It is by Jan Richardson titled, “The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief.”

Though the author wrote this book of blessings during her husband’s illness and subsequent passing, grief can come to us in many forms. Grief over lost dreams, over parts of ourselves that are not loved, the loss of so much of the natural world, the loss of our or a loved one’s physical abilities. Aging. Loss of memory. Loss of a pet.

But if we can stay with our grief until we come through to the other side, what blessings may await?

Construction Site

When we begin to emerge back into the world after grief has struck, we become aware that we cannot emerge alone. A lifeline comes to us from a friend, family member, mother nature, poetry, community.

The time will come when we will tether ourselves to this lifeline and throw the other end out to someone else. So perhaps it is more than a lifeline. It is a web. One we share with all life and offer back to another someday. Weaving together ourselves with all that we love.

This is my reading of the poem, “Construction Site” from a poet found on Twitter @the_librarian1.

Construction Site by CL @the_librarian1 on Twitter

Please have a listen to the poet’s reading. It is absolutely beautiful.

Blessing for Coming Home to an Empty House

I realized that I had not posted much lately. I am in the homerun stretch of graduating from the apprenticeship program at The Guild for Spiritual Guidance, which has carried me through the last two years in community and love. After this Sunday, I will be a graduate and will dive deep into my writing and sharing with you here in this space. I very much look forward to posting more.

In the meantime, I came across this poem by Jan Richardson. I hope it brings you comfort.

Blessing for Coming Home to an Empty House

I know
how every time you return,
you call out
in greeting
to the one
who is not there;
how you lift your voice
not in habit
but in honor
of the absence
so fierce
it has become
its own force.

I know
how the hollow
of the house
echoes in your chest,
how the emptiness
you enter
matches the ache
you carry with you
always.

I know
there are days
when the only thing
more brave than leaving
this house
is coming back to it.

So on those days,
may there be a door
in the emptiness
through which a welcome
waits for you.

On those days,
may you be surprised
by the grace
that gathers itself
within this space.

On those days,
may the delight
that made a home here
find its way to you again,
not merely in memory
but in hope,

so that every word
ever spoken in kindness
circles back to meet you;

so that you may hear
what still sings to you
within these walls;

so that you may know
the love
that dreams with you here
when finally
you give yourself
to rest—

the love
that rises with you,
stubborn like the dawn
that never fails
to come.

—Jan Richardson

Bare

This feeling of grief after a loss, I feel is a sacred time. I have vowed to let myself feel the depths of this pain. To sink down into the wisdom of this darkness. It is an ebb and flow of dark and light. And what we bring back into the world can be a healing balm, a calm acceptance, a way of walking gently on the Earth and loving this transitory life.


“No, it’s not emptiness that is felt now that you are gone from this world. What is felt is the fullness of your absence. A space laid bare, pregnant with the light of your humor,

The light of your love,

The light of your soft breath,

Your light,

You,

Light.”

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

The Witchery of Living

A poem by Mary Oliver. This is an excerpt from that poem. I plan on uploading a video of the whole poem in the near future, but I find this section particularly meaningful at this time in my life.

Click the picture for the video or read below.

To Begin With, The Sweet Grass

Mary Oliver

The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you, my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe
   still another.

Night Work

Yesterday, I lost a beloved pet to cancer. Today, I walk in the dark world of grief. It is becoming a well-worn path. Yet, I know that it is necessary to be fully engaged with my feelings and to let them come to the surface in order for them to shift into something that will help me in this world. And something that will lead me back to a deeper love for another.

I know I am not alone in feeling grief in these times. So, I want to share with you a short excerpt from the book by Francis Weller, “The Wild Edge of Sorrow.” He is an elder of our times who understands and teaches about the sacredness of grief.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

Click the picture for the video.

Love After Love

The weight of heartbreak and loss can envelop us in what feels like darkness so deep and wide, it is unimaginable to think of receiving love from another again. However, the most neglected and estranged person we encounter in our lives is oftentimes ourselves.

It is possible to love ourselves again, or for the first time. This poem by Derek Walcott tells us to discard the letters and preconceived images we have of ourselves that were borne out of disappointment and to love those parts of ourselves we have neglected. Fall in love with that stranger.

Love After Love

by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Prescription for the Disillusioned

Too often, we only have indifference, neglect, or even contempt for ourselves. Yet it is self-compassion that opens our hard shells to new beginnings and out of the illusion of futility. It is imperative in these times that we show ourselves the compassion we wish others would show to the suffering. Who among us is not suffering at times and who among us is not worthy of compassion?

Click the picture for the video or read below.

Prescription for the Disillusioned

by Rebecca del Rio

Come new to this day.
Remove the rigid overcoat of experience,
the notion of knowing,
the beliefs that cloud your vision.

Leave behind the stories of your life.
Spit out the sour taste of unmet expectation.
Let the stale scent of what-ifs waft back into the swamp
of your useless fears.

Arrive curious, without the armor of certainty,
the plans and planned results of the life you’ve imagined.
Live the life that chooses you,
new every breath, every blink of your astonished eyes.

– Rebecca del Rio