Saturday, October 27, 2012

holding loosely

I met with a friend, Noel, on Wednesday and her 8 month old daughter, Coah. As we spoke the baby poked and squirmed, tasted and grabbed, discovering textures and following sounds. She moved from her mother's arms to mine with trust and confidence, enticing those who passed by to join her in her vulnerability and keeping us in the present. I watched Noel with the baby, with gentleness Noel followed the movements Coah made. The mother and daughter seemed to dance, the baby moving, and the mother maintaining a balance between security and freedom. Noel's arms held Coah close enough to protect her from harm, yet loose enough to allow Coah to move, discover, and express or follow her desires.

Knowing her daughter's rhythm Noel held Coah close, wrapped her sweater around her and offered her breast's milk. With all the stimulation around Coah popped her head out and continued to delight in the chair, flowers, earrings, or hat near by. Noticing her daughter's subtleties, Noel, after some time, offered her daughter her milk twice more. Coah, in both instances, popped her head out to see the world instead. Though Coah's needs and desires were evident to her mother, Noel allowed Coah to continue leading without judgment or annoyance. Noel simply waited for her daughter to be ready to be nourished.

Noel listened to Coah. With gentleness and patience, she allowed Coah to be. Noel treated her 8 month old daughter with a dignity I remember Mami treating us with. A dignity that values and allows the baby to listen to her wisdom and her beat. When signs of further fatigue were evident to Noel, there was tenderness in her voice and added inclusion of Coah to the conversations. This is how I understand God.

In our vulnerability, in our moments of wonder, just as in our moments of crankiness, God is the patient mother, holding us loose enough, to allow us freedom, yet close enough where we are held secure. God is the gentle mother who knows our needs and desires before we can articulate or understand them and holds us to her bosom offering us nourishment from Godself. If we refuse or are not ready, God waits and continues to offer with tenderness in her voice and added inclusion. God simply waits for us to be ready to be nourished.

"She is such a good baby," Noel tells me.

Something tells me that God looks at us and says the same.
 "This is my beloved daughter/son with whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17

With you,

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Lent has been fruitful for me. From the beginning of the season I noticed God telling in prayer, in dreams, to rest. During an hour retreat on Ash Wednesday I noticed that my built fatigue allowed my shoulders to remain a little higher than normal in a state of tension rather than ease. What my body, what my whole self craved was what God was inviting me to... to rest, completely rest in Divine Love.
Wavering at times, but persistent in my desire to inhale and exhale and trust enough in our Abundant Creator to allow my shoulders to relax, God has led me to rest this lent.
My spiritual director asked me where exactly God was leading me to. "Home." I answered. "To an intimate, secure, place where I feel the soil beneath my bare toes and the suns rays on my face, and warmth." "Do you feel any tension or worries in this place where God is leading you." I closed my eyes to see. "None. I'm simly delighting in it."
That is where God's leading me during this lent. Closer to Home.

With you,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Back for Christmas

I walked into the nursing home I used to visit in the summer, since I'm back in town for Christmas. A plastic Christmas tree with white and blue lights decorating it sat in the corner while Christmas songs spewed from the radio. There they were the beauties I left in the summer. Robert sat on the living room sofa gazing off into a distant place. Helena walking in all her elegance with gold Mardi Gras beads and a red Christmas sweater. Her eyes lit up as she approached me. "Do you remember Luisely, Helena?" the nursing home event director asked her. "Yeah, yeah. " She came within an inch distance from my eyes smiling and with her soft hands caressed my face, "As beautiful as ever." I smiled, she remembered. She sat on her walker's pop-out stool and began her stories in German, as I listened attentively straining to find any resemblance to English. Her eyes vividly shared the emotions felt in the story. She leaned closer to me and let her nose touch mine and began rubbing her nose against mine. We laughed and laughed. I began singing to her and she sang along in German. I missed her.

I continued forward and met a few new faces, as some others died leaving room for them. Mary sat with two balls of pink yarn looking at them perplexed. I introduced myself and asked her if she planned on knitting anything. "Oh no, no. This is a cube and this is a ball. T.t.t.t.tttttt.ttttttt." Her frail hands colored dark blue from her veins handed one of the balls of yarn to me as she searched for the newspaper. Her eyes lay deep into their ocular cavities. Mary began describing all the liquor advertised on the page between mumbles, "This bottle's round and this one, you see, this one is long and this one costs $19.99 and this one $47.99." We sat and reviewed the bottles for a little less than half an hour. Rebecca sat next to us and began singing Christmas carols looking towards me for company. I sat between them both singing away, baffled at Rebecca's memory. Rebecca cannot remember how many children she has and remembers every word to "O Holy Night." Mary interrupted, "Are you listening to me?" "Yes, Mary I'm listening." With a sigh of relief Mary continued explaining each bottle of vodka, brandy, and rum on the page.

In the television room I met Margaret and William. William, a strapping old man, opened with, "Are you going  to give me a bath?" "No, I'm not." "Would you like to give me a bath?" he questioned with a grin. "No, sir." William had been sitting in the same sofa for three hours waiting for the nurse from Hospice to come bathe him. "They think I don't remember how long I've been waiting because of my condition. I've lost some of it, not all of it though." He asked me for a tissue to wipe his drool as he told me his stories of his four wives and life in the Air Force and Navy and how he's been sober for 50 years. "I say it was all God. It's not easy to quit, but for me, after trying for so long and never succeeding, one day it just happened. I quit." "It was a miracle." "I guess so," he answered. I asked him about his children and he asked me to stop asking questions, "I have this condition... it begins with L... uh, I can't remember what its called... something that makes me loss my thoughts." "Alzheimer's," I interrupted. "Ah, yes that. One day I was out doing my exercise. Walking around the neighborhood and something came into me and I couldn't stop walking." a pause followed. "That was two years ago. Now I've been to so many homes I couldn't keep track of them. This is my second week here." "Is it annoying to forget?" "Its frustrating."

Before leaving I asked for Lily. The event coordinator told me she'd been sick, but walked me to her room anyway. She entered before me checking to see if Lily's slumber continued. "Lily, you've got a visitor that you haven't seen in a very long time. You want to see her?" I came around the corner and heard her breath change as she saw me. "Oh!" she shrilled. One of her eyes couldn't open, her sweater almost revealed her breasts, and her diaper needed changing. "You're back!" "Yes, ma'am I am." "For how long?" "A whole month!" "Oh good." She rested her head back down on the bed and with a look of embarrassment sighed. "Do you want Luisely to come visit another day Lily?" the coordinator asked. "Mmmhmm." "Okay, Lily see you soon." "I'm glad you came back," she whispered.

Sitting, singing, interpreting, waiting, smelling... the visit reminded me that Kay Pov residents live everywhere. They help me see life.

With you,

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

merging of death and life

About a year ago in Kay Pov Lisanne died.
I was asked to dance a story and this is what I danced.

She stopped breathing.
They denied us a stretcher.
We carried her.
They laughed.
They wouldn't open the morgue.
Erica's braids.
The sun set.
I bathed.

She bathed.
The moon rose.
Christy's dress.
They wouldn't let us in.
We laughed.
We carried him.
I was his stretcher.
He breathed.

The story of Lisanne's death and Ian's birth merged in my dance. 
A year later, the stories still teach me.

With you,

Monday, September 5, 2011

protect us from all anxiety

Tomorrow it will be two weeks since I've arrived to California, my new home for the next three years. Despite constant affirmations from God that I am exactly where I need to be, and reminders that the Great Companion of Companions is journeying with me, I found myself in moments of anxiety. I lay in my bed a few nights ago allowing insecurities invade my mind, "What am I doing? I belong working with the people directly, not with books again." While in my heart peace assures me that I've listened and followed.

This past week I've allowed illusions to cause anguish within me and today as we prayed our Love's prayer in mass I listened to the familiar words coming out of the priests mouth...

"...grant us peace in our day. In your mercy... protect us from all anxiety."

The prayer carries a wisdom deep within, acknowledging our own vulnerability to anxiety and how much we need Our Comforter to protect us from it and grant us peace. Only in our peace will we be able to fully open and allow ourselves to dance with the Dancer of all dances and delight creating life in that spirit.

May you and I, both, replace our illusions for the peace that we are granted.

With you,


Friday, August 5, 2011

a hug

I sat conversing with June. An 84 year old Kentuky native, who used to work for the FBI. With Alzeimer's at  her side, she repeats the stories about working during Hoover's presidency, and meeting her husband at a dance that cost a nickel to get into, more than a dozen times with the same enthusiasm.

As I listened to her another resident was brought to the June's usual sitting area in front of the ignored TV. Her feet were bare, like mine, touching the floor from between the pedals of her wheelchair. I looked up to her and smiled, she moaned. I went closer, kneeling at her feet and listened. "Help me," she whispered, "help me." She extended her hand. I got up on my feet and leaned towards her and her seemingly feeble arm wrapped around me with tremendous strength. I leaned closer feeling her cheek rest on mine. My arm caressed her grey, soft hair as I listened to her struggling breath, feeling that her time was near, I felt her hand in my hair mimicking my motions, then finding my clip. I smiled.

A nursing assistant passed by warning me, "She may not let go." I stayed. Another nursing assistant walked by a few minutes later asking me if I wanted her to pry me away from the embrace. I gratefully declined with my eyes. What she didn't know was that I needed the hug as much as she did, she was giving me life and strength while I did the same for her. In the meantime another resident, Lily, soon to become my friend, was wheeled next to us. "Well, isn't that nice. We all need a hug once in a while." I responded, "They're good for our health." "Better than all the pills they give us," she replied. "I believe she knows." Pretty soon a third nurse came and said it was time to take her back to her room. I placed my forehead on hers and looked into her tired eyes. There was the mucus that accumulates in the eyes of those dying. She held on to my head and back. As we parted I kissed her hand and felt her, thanking her for helping me.

A week later Eileen died, she would have been 103 in October. There was wisdom in her dying, a wisdom I hope to learn in my living: to take off uncomfortable shoes, ask for help, and hold on to a hug for as long as needed, intuitively knowing what will bring peace.

With you, and Eileen,

Sunday, July 17, 2011

peace within

The tires of the car seemed to wake up the road on the silent ride towards the fields. We wrapped belts around our waists with bucket looped in them and walked through the crisp morning air towards the bushes. The branches arched over the groves, weighed down by the weight of the berries. The rays of sunlight bathed us through smeared clouds as, in the distance, a girl sang In the Jungle with all her might. With the passing of an hour our brows were wet with sweat and our trunk full of over 5 gallons of blueberries. Children chased each other blithely through the bushes and laughter traveled through the field. We weighed the berries and left the money in an envelope for the farmers. 

On the ride home we looked at the sky slowly blend with ominous grey clouds as we savored the sweet fruits in our mouths.

O Love my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Your hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Your power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to You;
How great You are, how great You are!
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to You:
How great You are, how great You are!
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to You;
How great You are, how great You are!
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to You:
How great You are, how great You are!
(modified version of How Great Thou Art by Carl Gustav Boberg)
With you,