Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hear The Music

I am not a poet, but occasionally some lines will pop into my head, so I write them down. That happened now and then when I was working at the hospital, and one day I realized I was writing one for a patient, “Bob”

He was an elderly black man with a large, loving family and his illness dragged over a number of years, the last two keeping him almost completely bedridden. He had congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes.

One of the great joys in Bob’s life, besides his family, was music. He sang in his church choir, and one daughter said he sang around the house all the time. She could remember having song fests when she was young, and they would sing all the popular songs as well as church songs.

During Bob’s hospital stays we would sing whenever he felt up to it, and often our singing would draw other folks in the room for a chorus or two, including nurses.
To hear Bob sing “Precious Lord” was a tremendous blessing.

One time when I brought the young man from Rehab Day Services to sing with Bob, he cried. I can still see the smile that lit up Bob’s face, despite the tears, and he said, “That boy sings like an angel.”

Bob's delight in music touched my heart in a special way, and I finally realized one day that the snatches of poetry in my journal had been inspired by him. And I knew this poem was for him.

Sing the song of life,
Take it,
Embrace it,
Carry it deep in your heart
Where the melody reaches out
And plays to the rhythm of your soul.

Dance the song of life.
Feel it,
Rejoice in it,
Let it carry your soul
To the far reaches of the heavens
Where God dwells.

When the song is ending,
Don't despair.
As the final note draws near,
Take it,
Embrace it,
Rejoice in it,
For the song never really dies.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Spirituality Doesn't Always Happen in Church

One of the things I learned in my years of training as a chaplain was the difference between spirituality and religion. Most of us tend to believe that the two are the same thing, but they are not. They can be intertwined, and are for many people, but others have a strong spirituality without ever setting foot in a church.

There are the people who find great peace and contentment while sitting on the bank of a river or lake with a fishing pole in hand. My friend, Mr. Charles, knew that he was nurturing his spirituality as much at the lake as he was at home reading his Bible.

There are the farmers who work the land and can say that they never feel closer to God than when they are out at the break of dawn to see a spectacular sunrise. I can attest to that. Not that I’m such a great farmer, but every morning when I go outside I am overcome with awe and wonder at the beauty created for our enjoyment.

We humans have something that separates us from the rest of the animals. Some people think of it as a soul, others refer to it as a “spirit center.” Whatever we do in our lives that make us feel whole and worthwhile is somehow connected to that spirit center. And this need to feel whole and worthwhile is as vital to our well-being as food and water and the air we breathe.

In my years of working at the hospital, I met many people who found religious practice to be the best way to feed their spirits, but I also met a number of folks who were relieved to find out that God would not strike them down for not going to church. I did, however, encourage them to nurture their spirituality in some way, whether it be through music, art, nature, or relationships with people. And to recognize that through that they were connecting with some power outside themselves, whether they called it God or not.

Friday, January 4, 2008

No Regrets

As I was clearing brush from my back pasture today, I reflected on how I almost didn’t follow my dream of having acreage and playing farmer.

When my husband and I were preparing to move back to Texas after our stint in Nebraska, we knew it would probably be our last move and we wanted to make sure it would be a home that we would be happy in the rest of our lives. For my husband, that didn’t mean much beyond a large master bedroom and a walk-in shower. Other than that, he didn’t care.

On the other hand, I cared a lot. I wanted a house with a large, country kitchen, some character, and a nice room for my office. And in my heart of hearts, I wanted to live in the country and have a few acres where I might be able to have a horse. But I wasn’t even sure if I should attempt to have that because my husband’s health is not good and I thought we should settle for a nice house in a small town.

When I told one of the chaplains I worked with what I was considering versus what I really wanted, she asked me why I was settling. She reminded me what regrets do to us, especially as we near the end of life, and asked if that is really what I wanted to do to myself. So what if I only got to live my dream for a few years before circumstances forced us to move again? At least I would have the dream for a little while and would not end up on my death bed playing "what if."

Buoyed with her advice, I told my husband that I was going to look at acreage the next time we went house-hunting in Texas. I thought he might object, but bless his heart, he didn’t. Of course, he had picked all the homes we’d lived in previously and had told me this pick was mine, so he really couldn't object.

We found our perfect house, well, maybe not perfect, but close to it, and have close to five acres. We also have a horse, two goats, two dogs, and three cats. Sometimes more cats depending on strays that wander down for a snack.

So this afternoon as I worked and marveled at the peace and beauty of our little place, I thanked God for the wisdom of my friend, for the graciousness of my husband, and for the blessings of “Grandma’s Ranch.”

And if death comes knocking soon, I will have no regrets.