Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Fall Hospice Interfaith Mini Retreat

The Hospice Tree of Life
 Note: It's been a particularly difficult Fall for our Hospice Team. Some of the Psych-Social-Spiritual-Bereavement staff got together and planned an hour-long Interfaith retreat, an opportunity for staff to connect and reflect in a meaningful way on the patients we have, the patients we've lost and the work we do. Then, we shared a pot luck buffet. We also compiled a small booklet of this service which also included some information about recognizing burnout and some important elements of self-care.

I share this service with you in the hopes that, if you are a Hospice professional, you might find some comfort and hope. If your work is not in Hospice but you have suffered the loss of a loved one, I hope this helps you to find some solace and peace. If you are so inclined, please feel free to use with your staff, with proper attribution, please.

Welcome: Creating ‘sanctuary’ – a safe space.

I ask you to join me in creating a safe space - a 'sanctuary' - into which we can bring our sadness and our joy, our tears and our laughter, our memories and present realities. I ask that you bring your whole self into this space and allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling without judging yourself. I ask that you allow your coworkers to bring their whole selves into this space to feel whatever they are feeling without judging them, knowing they will not judge you. In this way, together, we will create for each other a sanctuary, a safe space to be and meditate and pray.

There is no right or wrong way to pray, but I will share with you one prayer that I use every day, before I enter a patient's home. If prayer is a response to God - The Holy One, The Divine, The Cosmic Intelligence, The Higher Power, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Adonai, Yahewh, or however you name the Divine in your life - then the most ancient recorded prayer is the one made by Adam as written in Hebrew Scripture in the first chapter of Genesis in the book known as Torah.

After Adam had eaten of the forbidden fruit, he was walking through The Garden and God called to him, "Adam, where are you?" And, Adam responded, "Here I am."

"Here I am." A most ancient prayer which calls us to be fully present to God and centered in the knowledge of ourselves. Before I enter a patient's home, I touch my forehead and then my heart, take a deep breath and say, "Here," and then I exhale and say, "I am". 

So, try that with me now. Take a few deep, relaxing breaths and say, "Here I am." 

Find your center and bring your whole self into this sanctuary as we listen to this music.

Meditative Music      “They are falling all around me”  by  Sweet Honey in the Rock
They are falling all around me They are falling all around me They are falling all around me The strongest leaves on my tree  Every paper brings the news that Every paper brings the news that Every paper brings the news that The teachers of my life are moving on  Oh, death comes and rests so heavy Death comes and rests so heavy Death comes and rests so heavy Your face I will never see, never see you anymore  But I’m not really gon’na leave you I’m not really gon’na leave you You’re not really gon’na leave me  It is your path I walk It is your song I sing It is your load I take on It is your air I breathe It’s the record you set that makes me go on It’s your strength that helps me stand  You’re not really gon’na leave me  (oh…)  I have tried to sing my song right (I will try to sing my song right) I have tried to sing my song right (I will try to sing this song right) I have tried to sing my song right Be sure to let me hear from you. 

An Excerpt from “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscalgia

Spring had passed. So had Summer. Freddie, the leaf, had grown large. His mid section was wide and strong, and his five extensions were firm and pointed. He had first appeared in Spring as a small sprout on a rather large branch near the top of a tall tree.

Freddie was surrounded by hundreds of other leaves just like himself, or so it seemed. Soon he discovered that no two leaves were alike, even though they were on the same tree. Alfred was the leaf next to him. Ben was the leaf on his right side, and Clare was the lovely leaf overhead. They had all grown up together. They had learned to dance in the Spring breezes, bask lazily in the Summer sun and wash off in the cooling rains.

But it was Daniel who was Freddie's best friend. He was the largest leaf on the limb and seemed to have been there before anyone else. It appeared to Freddie that Daniel was also the wisest among them. It was Daniel who told them that they were part of a tree. It was Daniel who explained that they were growing in a public park. It was Daniel who told them that the tree had strong roots which were hidden in the ground below. He explained about the birds who came to sit on their branch and sing morning songs. He explained about the sun, the moon, the stars, and the seasons.

Freddie loved being a leaf. He loved his branch, his light leafy friends, his place high in the sky, the wind that jostled him about, the sun rays that warmed him, the moon that covered him with soft, white shadows. Summer had been especially nice. The long hot days felt good and the warm nights were peaceful and dreamy. There were many people in the park that Summer. They often came and sat under Freddie's tree. Daniel told him that giving shade was part of his purpose.

"What's a purpose?" Freddie had asked.

"A reason for being," Daniel had answered. "To make things more pleasant for others is a reason for being. To make shade for old people who come to escape the heat of their homes is a reason for being. To provide a cool place for children to come and play. To fan with our leaves the picnickers who come to eat on checkered tablecloths. These are all the reasons for being."

Freddie especially liked the old people. They sat so quietly on the cool grass and hardly ever moved. They talked in whispers of times past. The children were fun, too, even though they sometimes tore holes in the bark of the tree or carved their names into it. Still, it was fun to watch them move so fast and to laugh so much.
Guided meditation: A reason for being.

Begin with the Centering Prayer we just learned. "Here I am". 

Now, take some deep breaths and become conscious of any tension in your body. Inhale and exhale as you release that tension into the universe and let the cosmos bring you relaxation. 

Now, from the place of your center, go to a place in your memory that is a safe space for you. It could be a bedroom, a place in your yard, a place on the beach or in the forest, in a school room, at the home of a relative. Take the time to notice what's in that safe space, the colors and textures, how it looks and smells and makes you feel. 

Now, invite the faces of some of your patients into that space. Consider some of the things they taught you in your care for them that has helped you to be a better Hospice professional to other patients. Make note of those lessons. Thank them for what they have taught you. 

Now, come out of that safe place and back into your center. Stay there for a moment. When you are ready, come back into this sanctuary and consider what you will share about what you have learned. 

When you are ready, on each leaf, write a word or a sentence or a symbol that stands for a lesson you have learned from one of your patients which has shaped and formed your understanding, in this moment, of your reason for being a Hospice professional.

An Excerpt from “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf”

But Freddie's Summer soon passed. It vanished on an October night. He had never felt it so cold. All the leaves shivered with the cold. They were coated with a thin layer of white which quickly melted and left them dew drenched and sparkling in the morning sun. Again, it was Daniel who explained that they had experienced their first frost, the sign that it was Fall and that Winter would come soon. 

Almost at once, the whole tree, in fact, the whole park was transformed into a blaze of color. There was hardly a green leaf left. Alfred had turned a deep yellow. Ben had become a bright orange. Clare had become a blazing red, Daniel a deep purple and Freddie was red and gold and blue. How beautiful they all looked. Freddie and his friends had made their tree a rainbow.

"Why did we turn different colors," Freddie asked, "when we are on the same tree?"

"Each of us is different. We have had different experiences. We have faced the sun differently. We have cast shade differently. Why should we not have different colors?" Daniel said matter-of-factly. Daniel told Freddie that this wonderful season was called Fall.

One day a very strange thing happened. The same breezes that, in the past, had made them dance began to push and pull at their stems, almost as if they were angry. This caused some of the leaves to be torn from their branches and swept up in the wind, tossed about and dropped softly to the ground. All the leaves became frightened.

"What's happening?" they asked each other in whispers.

"It's what happens in Fall," Daniel told them. "It's the time for leaves to change their home. Some people call it to die."

"Will we all die?" Freddie asked.

"Yes," Daniel answered. "Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die."

"I won't die!" said Freddie with determination. "Will you, Daniel?"

"Yes," answered Daniel, "when it's my time."

"When is that?" asked Freddie.

"No one knows for sure," Daniel responded.

A Reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes (3:1-8) – Read together      
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
 An Excerpt from “Freddy the Falling Leaf”
Freddie noticed that the other leaves continued to fall. He thought, "It must be their time." He saw that some of the leaves lashed back at the wind before they fell, others simply let go and dropped quietly. Soon the tree was almost bare.

"I'm afraid to die," Freddie told Daniel. "I don't know what's down there."

"We all fear what we don't know, Freddie. It's natural," Daniel reassured him. "Yet, you were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?"

"Does the tree die, too?" Freddie asked.

"Someday. But there is something stronger than the tree. It is Life. That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life."

"Where will we go when we die?"

"No one knows for sure. That's the great mystery!"

"Will we return in the Spring?"

"We may not, but Life will."

"Then what has been the reason for all of this?" Freddie continued to question. "Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?"

Daniel answered in his matter-of-fact way, "It's been about the sun and the moon. It's been about happy times together. It's been about the shade and the old people and the children. It's been about colors in Fall. It's been about seasons. Isn't that enough?"

The In-gathering of Leaves

Please feel free to share what you feel you can or wish to about the lessons you have learned from the patients you have served which helps to shape and form you as a Hospice Professional.

Place your leaf on the Hospice Tree of Life. 

An Excerpt from “Freddy the Falling Leaf”
That afternoon, in the golden light of dusk, Daniel let go. He fell effortlessly. He seemed to smile peacefully as he fell. "Goodbye for now, Freddie," he said.

Then, Freddie was all alone, the only leaf on his branch. The first snow fell the following morning. It was soft, white, and gentle; but it was bitter cold. There was hardly any sun that day, and the day was very short. Freddie found himself losing his color, becoming brittle. It was constantly cold and the snow weighed heavily upon him.

At dawn the wind came that took Freddie from his branch. It didn't hurt at all. He felt himself float quietly, gently and softly downward. As he fell, he saw the whole tree for the first time. How strong and firm it was! He was sure that it would live for a long time and he knew that he had been part of its life and made him proud.

Freddie landed on a clump of snow. It somehow felt soft and even warm. In this new position he was more comfortable than he had ever been. He closed his eyes and fell asleep. He did not know that Spring would follow Winter and that the snow would melt into water. He did not know that what appeared to be his useless dried self would join with the water and serve to make the tree stronger. Most of all, he did not know that there, asleep in the tree and the ground, were already plans for new leaves in the Spring
 Musical Meditation  "Wanting Memories"  by Sweet Honey in the Rock

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.

You said you'd rock me in the cradle of your arms.
You said you'd hold me ‘til the storms of life were gone.
You said you'd comfort me in times like these and now I need you.
Now I need you...
And you are -

So, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
Since you've gone and left me, there's been so little beauty,
but I know I saw it clearly through your eyes.
Now the world outside is such a cold and bitter place.
Here inside I have few things that will console.
And when I try to hear your voice above the storms of life,
then i remember all the things that I was told.

Well, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
Yes, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I think on the things that made me feel so wonderful when I was young.
I think on the things that made me laugh , made me dance, made me sing.
I think on the things that made me grow into a being full of pride.
I think on these things, for they are true.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I thought that you were gone, but now I know you're with me.
You are the voice that whispers all I need to hear.
I know a "Please", a "Thank you", and a smile will take me far.
I know that I am you and you are me, and we are one.
I know that who I am is numbered in each grain of sand.
I know that I am blessed,
again, and again, and again, and again,
and, again.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.


I'm here! Now what? said...

Thank you for the memories that need to be remembered. All the patients we have all served that touched us some way, somehow.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

It's important, right?

8thday said...

I totally enjoyed this post. And I am now opening my day with the mantra 'here I am.' Not necessarily as a prayer but more like a reminder to be present and aware. More like 'here' - right here in this very place is where I am. Take notice.

Thanks, as always, for this beautiful piece

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You're welcome, 8th Day. If one of the purposes of religion (any religion or system of spiritual beliefs) is to make you more aware of life and more present to it, then "Here I am" is a wonderful prayer.