Our Saints and Thin Places

Today is All Saints’ Day, a time we especially remember those who have gone before us, as we do on so many ordinary days as well. Today I am thinking profoundly of my mother-in-law who died recently after a wonderfully long life of nearly 100 years. I am also thinking of a nephew, who died way too soon at age 52. And I am thinking of so many others, including my own parents. How I miss them all!!

Author and minister Jan Richardson writes about thin places, where earth and heaven meet. May we all have many, many thin places in our lives on All Saints’ Day and every day.

Blessings,

Melody

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Perhaps the Camino Walks You …

Just recently my husband and I returned from a spiritual walk on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. To say that the five-day, 66-mile trek was moving (literally and figuratively), wonderful, spiritual, calming, hard, funny, beautiful, and surprising (among many other adjectives) would be a huge understatement. One of the books that inspired us along the way, among many, is Joyce Rupp’s Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from The Camino. -And our tour guide company representatives from Spanish Steps were wonderful.

As I’ve heard many people say, perhaps the Camino walks you. If you are a searching soul, check it out.

Melody

Regrets? Hopefully not.

One of my dearest, long-time friends and former college roommates shared the following article with me over the holidays. It deals with end-of-life regrets. Hopefully the start of a New Year is a great time to reflect on these regrets and more importantly, how not to have them in our own lives.

Happy New Year and Happy Fullness of Living in 2014 and beyond,

Melody

Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed


By Sina Anvari | November 11, 2013

Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality.

I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way; you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness

An inspiring note from Nancy …

The amazing Rev. Nancy McCraine from Hospice Austin sent the following, and it meant a lot to me. Perhaps it will to you as well. Here’s to more stillness in each of our lives … Melody

Doorways to the Soul:
Cultivating Stillness

If our outer world is a reflection of our inner world,
don’t you want to take time to weed and care for your inner garden?
~Renee Trudeau, Nurturing the Soul of Your Family~

I am deeply thankful for those moments in the early morning when I try to be quiet, to sit in the presence of the gentle and compassionate and unruffled One to try to share in or be given some of that divine serenity. If I do not spend a reasonable amount of time in meditation early in the morning, then I feel a physical discomfort — it is worse than having forgotten to brush my teeth! I would be completely rudderless and lost if I did not have these times with God.
~Desmond Tutu~

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and be calm in your heart.
~Anonymous~

Our family raises organic blueberries and in the early summer we have a “pick your own” berry business on our Bastrop County farm. From sun up to sun down for several weekends in June all kinds of wonderful people come to pick these delicious dark blue orbs. It is great fun to listen to families talking and laughing as they fill their buckets and to see children, their fingers and faces stained blue, experience the joy of the harvest. By the end of each day, however, we are usually spent: over-heated, sun scorched, dusty and tired. On one such evening, several years ago, I had just returned to the comfort of our air conditioned home when I heard my husband finish a phone conversation something like this… That sounds great! We’ll see y’all in a couple of hours. You’re more than welcome to stay the night!

Who was that? I said, in what I’m sure was a less-than-gracious tone.

Some people are riding their bikes from Austin and want to camp out on our place, he replied.

You’ve got to be kidding!?! I said, imagining myself entertaining four sweat stained strangers for dinner when all I wanted was a shower and sleep.

Reading my mind, he assured me that there was nothing I had to do. They just want to pop their tents, he said, and hang out on the farm, maybe pick a few berries in the morning.
Noticing that I was still scowling in his direction he asked me what was the matter. I said something about being hot and cranky and that I probably just needed to go wash my face. And with that, I excused myself to go and pout in our bedroom. As I was sitting there (arms crossed, mouth pinched) I asked myself what exactly WAS the matter. Peace and quiet! I thought, is that too much to ask?!? And then I heard a voice from within whisper, Nancy, all the peace and quiet you ever need is here in this moment. Peace and quiet doesn’t depend on what’s going on around you; it’s what’s happening inside you. If it’s stillness you seek, seek no longer. Simply go within and be still.

It was a realization that changed everything for me. I became more aware that I could intentionally cultivate stillness every day so that, no matter what I was doing or where I was doing it, I could quietly slip into a place of inner serenity and peace. Spending at least 10 minutes of meditation or prayer first thing in the morning and last thing at night is, for me, like placing a soft cushion around my day: the edges aren’t quite as sharp; my emotions aren’t quite as unruly; there is available to me greater equanimity, compassion, and humor to face whatever comes.

What are other ways to cultivate stillness? Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way. For many, exercise is one way to stillness. As our bodies move through space our thoughts can begin to settle. Gardening is another way; listening to or making music; cooking; writing; building something. Whatever it is, keep it simple, make it meaningful for you, and keep a sense of humor about it. And give it time.

If you’re ready to experience lasting change in your life and tap into inner peace on a daily basis, develop and stick with a daily spiritual practice. A spiritual mentor once said to me, ‘Want to experience a little bit of peace? Meditate once a week. Want to experience a lot of peace? Meditate every day.’
~Renee Trudeau~

Rev. Nancy Chester McCranie, M.Div.
Director of Volunteer and Bereavement Services
Hospice Austin
4107 Spicewood Springs Rd, Suite 100
Austin, TX 78759
P: (512) 342-4716
http://www.HospiceAustin.org

It Is Well

Today our University United Methodist Church Senior Pastor, Dr. John Elford, began a four-month sermon series entitled ‘When In Our Music God is Glorified’.  One of the hymns mentioned was the old standard from the Methodist hymnal entitled It Is Well With My Soul.  Definitely I have loved that hymn for years, yet I had no idea of the story behind the lyrics.  Only when I heard the story of the hymn and its relationship to grief, loss and response did I have a fuller appreciation of the notion of faith and things being well with our souls. 

Perhaps you are interested in the background narrative to this wonderful hymn.  Hopefully all is well with your soul.  Melody

It is Well with My Soul, the Song and the Story – Composer Horatio Spafford –

Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures. His circle of friends included Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey and various other well-known Christians of the day.

At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.

In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He also went to join Moody and Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that his family’s ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.

With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on this trip that he penned those now famous words, When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul..

Philip Bliss (1838-1876), composer of many songs including Hold the Fort, Let the Lower Lights be Burning, and Jesus Loves Even Me, was so impressed with Spafford’s life and the words of his hymn that he composed a beautiful piece of music to accompany the lyrics. The song was published by Bliss and Sankey, in 1876.

For more than a century, the tragic story of one man has given hope to countless thousands who have lifted their voices to sing, It Is Well With My Soul.

This visual, Be Not Anxious Church PowerPoint, provides an ideal enhancement to the words of the song.

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Refrain

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Refrain

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Refrain

And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Refrain

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Earthly Connections …

For 12 years I had the privilege of working internally for a long-term care company that provided services in residential settings to seniors and persons who were developmentally disabled.  Since starting my own consulting business, I have continued to work with a variety of long-term care providers, and am blessed to be able to do so. 

The men and women in long-term care communities make a huge, positive difference in our society and in persons’ personal lives on a daily basis.   They make connections with their residents and, on a more global level, with policymakers who make decisions about Medicare and Medicaid on behalf of their residents.

Working alongside long-term care professionals, and supporting them, is a privilege.  Here’s a narrative, musical example of the many good things happening in our skilled nursing facilities, including for persons at the end stages of their lives.  This link was sent to me by a friend with whom I worked many years ago in the long-term care profession, and I think it is a very powerful story about connections.

On this Earth Day, here’s to great connections for you and yours!  Melody

http://youtu.be/NKDXuCE7LeQ

Gratitude for the privilege of laboring

On this Labor Day 2011, I find myself reflective, within a lens of wide and deep gratitude, for all those who work hard on a daily basis to serve others.  On a personal basis, I am grateful for my own clients, bosses, work colleagues, professional mentors, and many others.  From a Central Texas perspective, I am grateful to the fire fighters and emergency personnel who are working around-the-clock to eradicate several horrible wildfires burning out of control, in some cases, around the great cities of Austin and Bastrop and elsewhere.

In sum, I am grateful to work, for work, and for those who work alongside me.  For those looking for work across our country, I am especially thinking of you.

Many blessings to all on this Labor Day 2011.  Melody