caregiving


online excerpts from
Caring in Remembered Ways...inspiring compassion as a way of life

maggie davis' most recent book, which celebrates compassion as a way of life



tender mercies, merciful God, mercy
a new book for caregivers, parents, teachers—all of us—well or in pain, joyful or sorrowing, evergrowing, who choose to bring our love to life.

An excerpt or two is included from each section of my latest book, Caring in Remembered Ways, so that you might feel the essence of the book by reading them. Click on any section of the CONTENTS page below.

signature of maggie davis            

CONTENTS

in the cradle of our arms

tell me your story         all in good time

promises to keep

mercy on us         becoming real

worklove

beyond words         do you remember me?

safe and sound

heroes among us         loving children

my life is in your hands

returning the favor         removing the blinders

the honesty room

good vibrations         wonder of wonders

innocent voices

howling         minute particulars

tender touch

crossing all the borders         all our trials

blessings, gratitude and prayer

saying goodbye         loved ones dying

fragile country

many faces of love         giving ourselves away

a light in this world


star    Excerpts from Caring in Remembered Ways . . .    star


from in the cradle of our arms

Imagine having way-stations in place where even the hardiest of us could walk in off the street to find tenderness, to gather strength, (perhaps to gain a bit of what's been missing all our lives or a taste of what we long for we once had) and then be glad to pass the kind attentions on.
      I'll cradle you. Please cradle me.
Charles Johnston in his commentary and translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali speaks of the importance of "giving kindly sympathy to the happy, thus doubling their joy" and "showing compassion for the sad, thus halving their sorrow."

Love is our essence. It is seamless, like a circle-saving, like an answered prayer-and a force we can learn to direct. How true the line from the movie Angie: "Everyone's got something broken. The less broken got to take care of the more broken."

Ideally, we could care so abundantly that if we had a hundred friends or a hundred pets, each one would feel nourished. We would extend ouselves, not because others told us to, but from the inside out.


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from tell me your story

If I listen to your story-if you listen to mine-we have much in common already, though others may call us strangers. We clear a space, when we listen well, just as we do when we clear a tangle of undergrowth from our gardens so new life can burst forth. In this space, God as we know God has room to join us. . . .

When medication or stroke or pain robs people of clear speech, only sometimes are they robbed of brain power. What a gift when caregetters are listened to earnestly, no matter their state of confusion, then helped to find a way their thoughts and feelings can be known, to whatever degree this is possible. People do not struggle to speak unless there is something they dearly want to say.


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from all in good time

Once in a while, when stones are not lodged tightly in the earth-nor seem determined to stay put—I bring a few home with me.

I place stones around my garden beds.I put them by the wooden post near my front door. I nestle them next to plants. I perch them on the big rock on the path to my cabin. I stack them on my old gray-wood windowsills.

Stones help me live more in balance. They are so fine, doing what looks to the naked eye like nothing. I am reminded that all grand work is born from this stillness and measure how willing I am to be aware and balanced in my thoughts and in my day-how present I can be to others-by how open I am to standing stone upon stone upon stone when they fall.


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from promises to keep

Days we are busy, we sometimes forget there are people counting on us to act on promises we have made, within a time frame we ourselves have agreed to. Typical short-term promises include: "I'll call you right back," or "I'll give you an answer by tomorrow," or "I'll send it right in," or "I'll drop off your book for you," or "I'll fix it for you by Thursday."

If a person in our care reminds us repeatedly of a task we said we would complete that we have not completed—or have not completed properly—we might think how crucial the completion of this task might be to that person, and then respond accordingly. And how kind we are, if we are behind schedule, when we call people we may be inconveniencing to let them know that we have fallen behind, so they don't think we have forgotten them.

To you or to me, a postponement might mean we must reschedule our day. To those whose lives turn on our presence, a delay could mean much more. A person we care for might be only a minor part of our world. We, on the other hand, might be that person's shining star.


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from mercy on us

I wrote in Roots of Peace, Seeds of Hope, "Can you see yourself in other people?" "Can you feel what it's like to be living as they live? Can you understand that if you were living their lives, you might be acting as they are acting?"

What if, whenever we watched another person doing something that displeased us, we considered that this was his or her worst moment? It is said that God forgives us. Who are we, then, not to forgive each other and ourselves?

How astounding that our hearts can expand and contrace, expand and contract, at all, so often and so deeply, without bearing permanent damage. Maybe exercising our compassion does for our heart what a good run is meant to. . . .

Think of thoughts you have had you are glad no one is aware of. Think of things you have done—or have not done—for not so very commendable reasons, and people turned away from you because they were embarrassed for you or repelled by you.

Perhaps one person didn't turn away. Perhaps that person stroked your arm or gave you a look that said "I'm here" or "Don't worry, I've been there. It's okay."

We each blunder in our lifetimes. It is nice to be with someone who realizes we are all similar in this way.


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from becoming real

Consider the expression "by heart." It comes from the age-old belief that the heart is the center of vital functions as well as the seat of affection.

To know something by heart is to know it within the center of oneself, as if one had been taken by truth. Less and less, then, do we switch from authority to authority like to so many stations, changing trains. Seeing clearly, we know it is no better to be led like sheep toward peace, than—like sheep—to be led toward war.


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from worklove

Whatever we give our attention to thrives. What we withdraw our attention from, withers. We wouldn't expect flowers to grow if the sun shone on them only once in a while. We wouldn't expect to be a fine musician if, day after day, we didn't put our finger to our instrument.

Yet effort need not mean struggle. I find that when I struggle, usually I am off track, trying to get back on, or trying to deny I am off track at all. With simple effort, I merely do what I need to do to arrive where I clearly want to go.

Goethe wrote: "The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred."


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from beyond words

A nurse came to interview a friend of mine who was terminally ill—I was at my friend's home when the nurse arrived. There was hope that the information the nurse gleaned during her visit would help my friend receive the increased services he now needed during the time he had left to live.

The nurse was cheerful and well-meaning, but her first questions to my friend unsettled him. Had she been more in tune,or less pressured to push on to other interviews, she might have anticipated that her inquiries (focusing on changes in my friend's eating and bowel habits) would remind him, sharply, of how far he was from former vigorous ways. She might have softened my friend's experience, saying:
"A few of the questions I'll be asking you, you might feels uncomfortable answering. I'm sorry. I wish I didn't have to question you at all. Feel free to take your time. If there's anything I can do to make this easier, please tell me, or jump in as we go along. I'd be happy for you to do that."

As it was, my friend felt shattered by the interview. The help the nurse was seeking for him was tainted by the means she used (and did not use) to set the help in motion.


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from do you remember me?

We are kind to people suffering dementia if we go with them into their world instead of trying to keep them in ours, if each time they speak we respond to them as if their words were brand new. These words are new to the person saying them, no matter how often he or she has spoken them before. If we act annoyed, how crushed this person must feel in that instant—as if struck by a little avalanche. How crushed we feel, too, when we realize what we've done.

I have friends who are old and whose memories are not whole. These good people do not always remember my name. Still, I feel they are happy when I'm around. They do recognize me, but in ways I can't know.


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from safe and sound

Panic is fear without known cause. There is no tiger chasing, no wolf at the door. These days, when others suffer so and have unmistakable reasons to be afraid, blasts of panic are often edged with shame.

Attacks I have experienced were most severe when I imagined they might go on forever—like the agony of a woman in the nursing home I visit, who wails and wails no matter what is done to ease her.

Once every night for six months I awakened six or seven times in the middle of my sleep, fire surging from my solar plexus to my throat, my heart beating wildly; a hundred people couldn't have kept me lying down if they had wanted to—that's how I felt.

Over and over, pacing, I told myself I would survive and be well.Some nights I spoke out loud for reassurance as if I were a mother speaking to a child, when that's what it took not to crumble. "Don't worry," I said. "You're not alone. I'm here. I'm here. Don't be afraid." Saying these words to myself, or words similar to these, I felt my truest nature reaching up and speaking through me.

Soon after an attack, I could not imagine ever having suffered one. During an attack, what I wanted was someone to stand by me and not pull away. I wanted this even though I knew that a person experiencing panic can be unsettling to be around.

Years ago on the heels of the second—and last—major assault, which had persisted for months, I of Jewish heritage called out desperately into the night "Jesus, have mercy! Jesus, have mercy!" I don't know where the words came from, but the panic ended almost immediately. Every attack since (and there have not been more than one or two, these lasting less than a day), it has been this calling out—this surrendering—that has saved me.


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from heroes among us

Picturing ourselves in difficult situations that others endure, we wonder whether we could be that staunch, and we feel humbled. We sense that all outward success would mean little to us if we could not rise to be our best on any occasion. At the same time we hope that if others can do what they do and bear what they bear, we too could be helpful and courageous, even if all we cared about were torn from us—that losing our loved ones, losing our homes, we would find loved ones and homes wherever we were and rise—masters of our thoughts and words and actions—from the ashes of our lives. Perhaps this is the lesson—the good—that all the madness drives us to: seeing the glory in ourselves and acting from that glory.


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from loving children

The next time you are in an airport, watch a toddler light faces as he goes walking by. It is as if a wand has touched each mouth and made it smile.

Or watch a little one wander with a fistful of seeds in the jungle of her mother's garden. Maybe someone has whispered to her: "Look! Seeds grow, too, just like you are growing." Humming, the child casts her seeds at rocks or on gravel in the path where, most likely, they will never thrive, but this runs second to the joy she's feeling.

Children ride into this life on streams of wisdom we had best not tamper with. The night of her birth, I held my first granddaughter and loved her right away. "Remember!" I whispered, touching my lips to her curl of an ear.

Maybe, in part, our children cry when they are born because they feel the loosening of a vital bond. Too often, the wonder they make known so engagingly when they are very young becomes to adults, as children grow older, nonsense to be driven from them.


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from my life is in your hands

To the last drop, most of us want to be all we are and we measure our capacities by what we still can manage. The last thing we want is for someone to try to take over, to do for us the few things we still can do for ourselves. Everyone I have cared for, no matter how old or how weak, has exercised this claim.

The reason we do not easily give up our control over people in our care is because their "kingdoms" don't look like kingdoms. Tea at three o'clock instead of four, the pink bathrobe or the blue one—rule over one square foot of space beside a bed—how much could these things matter? Requests seem, sometimes, as if they are contrived to irritate us.

Understanding comes when we remind ourselves that we are not the one with pill bottles and a walker or a commode to view day after day. Called from the book we are writing, or the cake we are baking, or the thoughts we are thinking, by people we care for who are in chronic pain or powerless without us, our sight clears. We realize that others, too, may have had a passion that consumed them. Be we hard-at-work author or cook or philosopher, we see that another's kingdom, now so very small, may mean as much to him or her as our grander realms mean to us. We imagine what having to ask repeatedly for assistance does to people. When people do ask for our help, we seek to ease them in ways that allow them their dignity.


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from returning the favor

We may be related to our caregivers—perhaps they are living in our home, or we are living in theirs. Or we are living in a nursing home or in a hospital. Maybe we have a lot of money, but are ill—or we are well, but homeless, and someone has taken us in.

In any situation, we can care our caregivers by showing respect for the space they live and work in. This we can do, whether we are bedridden, or not, and no matter what respect caregivers show for their own space, or for us, in return.

Our lives may have changed precipitously, but so have theirs. Caring for us—if they love us deeply—they feel much pain, watching us suffer.


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from removing the blinders

An old apple tree stands in a field. A botanist sees the tree and considers its state of health. A child who has just been punished sees a branch on the tree as the place where the switch came from. A child from a happier home sees that branch as a place to swing from or sit on. A farmer sees the tree for the fruit from it he can sell. A hunter sees the tree as a hideout he can use to scout the field edge for deer. A deer sees the tree as a source of food. A bird sees the tree as a site for her nest.

God as we know God sees what the botanist sees and both children, and the farmer and the hunter and the deer and the bird, and more, because God as we know God is all seeing. The more present we can be to the all-of-you of a tree (or of anything), the more vital our caring.

Not taking time to see deeply—not noticing how I act when I am with you, or how you respond to me—I cannot recognize sorrow in myself or in you, and I am not able to reach out in ways that suit you.

My awareness of myself is directly connected to my awareness of you. If I don't know how I pull back from touching, I won't know whether you relax when I stroke your head, or if you stiffen. I won't know whether you want me to sit at the foot of your bed where you can see me easily without turning your head, or beside you where I can be close enough to touch your hand. We are worlds away from each other though a lifetime may connect us.

What we see deeply, we understand. What we understand, we love. What we love, we care for well. What we care for well, we see deeply. A golden circle.


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from the honesty room

Serving, we learn more about ourselves than we learn doing most anything else. Sometimes attitudes arise we would rather not admit to, yet facing those attitudes leaves us freer to shift them.

Wrote Thomas Merton in No Man Is An Island: "The fruitfulness of our life depends in large measure on our ability to doubt our own words and to quesetion the value of our own work.The man who completely trust his own estimate of himself is doomed to sterility."

Surely, decisions we make spring from our greatest love and deepest wisdom, from our deepest fears and resentments, and from any and all places inbetween.

A person doing grand deeds may harbor judgment in his or her heart against those he serves, or hold the deepest love there. A person claiming an abiding faith in God may be suffused with that faith or using his claim of it to mask ill will or unbounded need or fear of intimacy. Sometimes helping others becomes just one more way we avoid slowing down enough to face our problems or ourselves.


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from good vibrations

Everything on earth vibrates at varying rates of speed. A note played on one piano can make another unplayed piano resonate and play the same note.

Think of it: a person in bed is a captive instrument, played by everyone who examines, who treats, who visits, who delivers. We cannot be careful enough how we enter the room of a person who's confined there. That person is vulnerable—like the princess feeling the pea, in the fairytale. Just because we cannot feel the pea or see it, doesn't mean it does not exist.

A person's level of energy might be lower than the fervor of goodwill we are feeling. What people can withstand when they are well may feel overwhelming to them if they are not well. . . .

One person coming by may act too coolly. Another bursts in and talks too loudly or too much—this, when a pin, dropping, feels like a mortar blast. If we are agitated, agitation is what the person in our care will experience. Dark moods, too, are harmful.

Hot red can inflame a person already burning with fever; it can also lift a person out of tedium. Cool blue can sadden a person suffering from depression; it can also calm someone down. A dress brash with flowers can make a dizzy person dizzier; it also can be cheering. Strong perfume may smell like chemicals. . . .

People may not be able to hear clearly every word we are saying, but this does not mean they are insensitive to all sounds. The lively conversation we enjoy with a friend may sound like nails on a blackboard to a person who can't escape from it. In contrast, a droning conversation can drag a person down.

To some who are most vulnerable, the slight crackling of a paper bag sounds like an explosion. The drip from a faucet can cause distress; so can logs being dropped too loudly on the woodpile. Jangling jewelry might be felt as a storm of noise. A shrill laugh from even the nicest person can be jarring to those who live in a gossamer world.


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from wonder of wonders

Two people share a moment. One skips over it as if it were a pebble underfoot. Another opens it like treasure, releasing its power like a sculptor frees a stunning face from stone.

Sometimes a fine song is heard or a painting sis een that takes our breath away. Even a candle set straight in its holder sparks chords of beauty feelings. A seed is planted then that can be nourished alive. Later, looking back, we see that our soul has found in the crowd and stiffness of our days, a way to beckon to us.

What a miracle in this world that one speck of a person can even begin to ponder such things. We are the treasurers of the universe, we are. No one of greater title or outward fortune could be luckier than we who touch wonder every day and know the power of this thrilling thing we do.

"God!" I said breathing in the perfect view of cove and beach and mountain only five minutes from my cabin. "God!"

Exactly.


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from innocent voices

If within these pages I did not recognize other life, this book would be only partly written, as if I were hosting a family reunion without asking all my relatives to the celebration, implying that all those uninvited were not worth the caring for. Having compassion for all life, not just human life, a healing takes place in us—a warming—that benefits us all, human beings included. What if we had faith that seeing this deeply and embracing this widely—were our ticket to becoming as whole as we have ever dreamed of being. . . .

Gardening, I am glad for reminders of wildness around me. Now and then, I dig a little too deeply or a little too quickly. I weed a little too vigorously. I buy too many plants instead of taking unendangered plants, gently, from the wild. I forget that every time I move a plant, prune a shrub, clip a flower from its stalk or exchanging plants with my green-thumbed friends. I do this instead of growing my own seedlings, or dividing and relocating what is already in my garden—or nursing a weakened plant to health. I forget that every time I move a plant, prune a shrub, clip a flower from its stalk, I cut life short as well as help life grow.

Some summer days, instead of gathering flowers to bring inside to rejoice in, I let my vases stand empty. I feed my desire for beauty with the sight of one blooming potted plant. Those days, it is enough that flowers thrive in the fields nearby—I need not always interrupt them from their growing. One year, perhaps, I will let my field of herbs and wildflowers grow any way it wants to. Everything doesn't have to be perfect. Everything doesn't have to be quick. The wildness whispers: "Before you were here, the land thrived without you."


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from howling

A person confined to a hospital may be sad, angry, afraid or otherwise disraught, but this doesn't mean he suffers from Alzheimer's or another dementia, or that he is classically depressed or psychotic. The drugs he is taking might be provoking his behavior. He may simply be having a bad time—a bad day. Perhaps no one visits and there is deep fear of dying. Maybe there is a need to go to the bathroom and no one is answering the call.

People become agitated when they have been in bed for a long time. The more agitated they become the more they might be seen as complaining or difficult—and be ignored. . . .

What if wherever people were confined day after day—for whatever reason—there were time allowed for howling? Nurses or parents or doctors or prison guards would let people express their distress without trying to restrain, or sedate them.

Times I could not convert anguish into more positive emotions, or into good work, I let loose in my truck (with the windows up). One morning, alone and still hampered by Bell's Palsy, I threw open my front door (and my mouth, the best I was able) and called out for mercy for myself and for all others who found themselves trapped in whatever way by their bodies. Then for a minute, I howled and howled.

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from minute particulars

Every year after flying north thousands of miles from the Ecuadorian rain forest, the Swainson's thrush heads south again in springtime to the rainforest, returning to the same home tree—just as you or I, at the end of a long journey would come home again to our own front door.

What if our home were gone when we returned? More and more, this is what the thrushes find. What does each bird feel, then? What does each bird do?

We mourn the passing of our endangered lands—the scope of this passing we can barely imagine. Yet, for me, when I think of one single bird heading home to one tree to find no home, in that is captured the agony of all the larger and more obliterating losses.


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from tender touch

One afternoon for nearly two hours, working in tandem with two other volunteers I tended an old man who was so close to dying and so medicated he could hardly control his functioning. I looked at this stretch of a human being, who was now so thin, but—according to his pictures—was once so hefty and tall. He was watching his skin being washed, not with contempt for himself, but as if he were looking at a diamond in the sun—with that much awe at his own changing.

The man's skin was thin and splotched and shining. It was seemly for him at this time in his life to have skin like this. I felt honored to be caring for it. not resistant as I had been when my parents were dying and, looking at their skin, I was reminded, piercingly, of their impending deaths.


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from crossing all the borders

Sometimes I magnify my own discomforts in my mind so I can approach another's suffering. I turn traffic jams into pesky flies on festering sores. I turn a critical remark into an onslaught from a nearby tribe. I turn a bothersome heat into a crop-parching drought, a rainy day into a monsoon. I turn the longing for personal space into a lifetime of sharing one room with ten other people.

In truth, I can't come close to these experiences when I imagine them, no matter what amount of time I take to try to do that, no matter how strong my intent to dive deeply. But the effort inspires in me an ever-growing gratitude for my own life, as well as a finer-tuned understanding of those whose lives I encounter every day.


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from all our trials

Think of an airplane braking when it lands—the sound it makes, the feeling in the belly that comes from the body opposing great speed. How similar to our loving someone deeply for years and picturing no limits to this loving, then finding ourselves braking-suddenly relating with this person differently—due to the impact of injury or illness.

One moment we are friend (child or partner or parent) to a vigorous person. The next moment we are responsible for that person, completely. Now instead of wondering whether to move to a different state, or to change careers, we concentrate on the least hurtful way to turn our loved one in bed or search for all that will soothe and nourish him. . . .


Even if we are glad to serve, our willingness to do so may be met with our loved one's own resistance. Feeling at risk, and raw, people we're caring for might spray orders at us—like bullets from a machine gun. We feel particularly tried when those we're looking after are cheerful to everyone else but grumble to us when we're alone with them—many times we, too, could use a tender word.

Pain and worry aside, one reason why even the kindest people confined to bed might act ungenerously toward us is that they envy us (though they may be unaware of this). We are, after all, more vital than they are, more capable of taking time to replenish ourselves, even in ordinary ways—a walk, a warm bath, a favorite meal. Even if we are old and not so steady on our feet ourselves, we most likely enjoy this advantage. . . .

Only by reaching for the "beyond-the-beyond" of people—behind their eyes, back of their pain, beneath their blame and irritation and fussing—do we make a path to the best in them. Treating someone with compassion who does not treat us well in return might be our fullest offering of love, as well as our own greatest relief during daily rounds of vigilance and giving.


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from blessings, gratitude and prayer

As a child I had prayed directly to God, then lost both the knack of praying and the fondness for it. When I was in my forties, I was stirred to prayer again—though praying, I felt as awkward as a teen at her first dance.

At first, it was others' prayers that drew me—simple prayers, of praise and appreciation and connection. Then during an excruciating moment in my life when I had given up expectation of ever being able to muster my will and save myself, I opened my mouth and prayer erupted from me.

My prayers have always been answered, though sometimes in subtle ways I have not expected. Now, calling out to God as I know God—in surrender, for mercy for myself and all, in celebration and gratitude, to align myself—is my grandest consolation and encouragement.

Praying has become the answer to my prayers. On my best days,prayer runs beneath the surface of what I think and say and do—a vibrant stream that grounds me as it lifts me up, that clears my sight and makes me more aware of others.


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from saying goodbye

Sometimes we cry when loved ones are dying, not only for their sadness or for their pain but from our own pain that we are losing them. Other times we cry because we are feeling nothing positive for a parent or spouse we are losing. Worse, we might be feeling nothing at all, or we might even be glad we are losing this person (this feeling born, most likely, of pain or anger or guilt we have held for a long time between us).

There is a double loss then—of a mother or father or spouse we were supposed to have loved and was supposed to have loved us but could not, and the loss of all this person represented to us of a love we may have longed for. but never received.

We feel loss keenly, too, when we begin to heal a relationship and know there is little time left to complete the healing or enjoy the treasure we have found. Though it is true that even after a person's death we can mend or celebrate our relationship with that person within our own heart and mind anytime we choose to, this truth does not replace the yearning for our loved one's physical presence.


Some of us are lucky to have been loved lifelong by the dying person we are caring for, and to have loved that person lifelong as well. We may look at this person (who has not been able to get along without us and whom we love so much) and wonder whether, if we had been wiser, or more dedicated, we might have cared in ways that could have enhanced or prolonged or eased more deeply our loved one's life.

The experience we share with people we love who are dying often seems extraordinary because during their dying time we shift gears—we say and do for each other (eyes open, heart open) all we might have been saying and doing all along, and now it is clear what we have been missing. We didn't do enough good. We didn't feel enough grief. We didn't have enough time. These are thoughts our loved ones would, most likely, not want us to suffer. Compounding our suffering, we often imagine we are alone in it or that others, in their caregiving, are far more capable—far more appropriate—than we are.

Truth is, no matter what we are feeling about the person we are saying good-bye to, there may be a place in us that never completely heals when that person dies. This is the wounded heart many speak of.

Even if we believe in reincarnation—even if we are strong and know that at some point we will be able to carry on—within us may live a sadness that a beautiful spirit will no longer be nourishing us—and others—in plain view.

Sometimes the longing is so deep for the comfort a person has provided, we cannot imagine climbing from it. Perhaps this person is an example of how we want to be in the world—or the one who knows us best and loves us anyway, reminding us of all inside us that is whole and sound. I think of the rare occasions someone has understood me to my core. These times have felt greater to me than all other times.


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from loved ones dying

I don't know how my mother managed to be so brave, for so long, invaded as she was by disease. It was true I was flying down every few weeks to be with her.And she did have interests-and good friends. (These good people, who were much younger than my mother, had become my friends, too, over the decades. They were supportive during both my parents' dying times, providing kindness and follow-through as steadfastly as the closest kin might have provided them.)

Even so, the house felt unbearably empty many days, my mother told me. She said she talked out loud to my father's picture, for company.

I made my mother promise she would tell me when she couldn't get along without my help.

"I don't want you to worry," she kept saying.

"This is the only way I won't," I answered her. I said it would be her greatest good to me if I could trust that she would call me when she needed me.


The week before the call came I must have sensed it was on its way. I snipped every loose end in my life and held back from beginning even the least demanding new project. When the phone rang and my mother, who for all her life had been clear of mind, said: "I'm falling. I'm not sure how to take my medicines. Can you come down?" my arms were around her within two days, and with her I stayed until she died.


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from fragile country

The moment my mother died, I wished for angels or blaring trumpets or triple rainbows—some offering of splendor. But the bird I heard that seemed too plain a marker became marker enough.

God puts little comforts all around if we would see them. The perfect roundness of a stone. A firefly at the window. A sudden, gentle rain.

Anywhere we go, like food we take with us for nourishment, we can carry our loved ones with us. Just as flesh and bones go to dust and feed earth, maybe lovely spirits, once gone from us, feed air—every breath we take in, the essence of them.

We celebrate loved ones who have died when we make a place inside ourselves for them to go on living—and when we put the good of their lifetime to work in our own lives, adding our own good as we grow. What a force of life and love we are, to be able to lose what we lose and go on. "My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon."


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from many faces of love

A frail old woman lies in her room in a center for the terminally ill. Many people have been caring for this woman. She is beyond recognizing them.

When one of her caregivers comes into her room to check on her, he is surprised that she turns to him and manages to put her hand on his arm. He is even more surprised when she speaks to him—she hasn't talked to anyone in a long while.

"I love you," she says, then she says the words again—with great feeling. "I love you." The caregiver senses she does not know who he is—that he could be any one of those watching over her, that loving him is loving them all.


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from giving ourselves away

If never in our entire lives we have been granted a caring word, still we have the capacity to ease others so they do not suffer as we have—to be refuge, even if we cannot find refuge. And if we have been given all the riches others lack—people who encouraged us when we were children, great financial resources, endless favors-we can pass the richness on in fine, sustaining ways.

We can give ourselves, not so that others will like us or so that we will like ourselves more, not so that at the end of our lives we'll have care, ourselves, not so that we'll be saved from pain or untimely death or have a better resum¹ to present to God, but simply because we are love, no matter what is asked of us.

Not knowing we are love, we put boundaries on our loving. Knowing we are love, ideally everyone we meet is no more or less worthy to receive all we can give. . .

I feel the worst, now, not when I don't receive but when I cramp myself and don't give what I am capable of giving. Nature spills her abundance fully. I want to do that.


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from a light in this world

Something splendid is rising-above all that is harsh and cold, above all that is crumbling—that feels bright and clean and new like springcoming. Television programs featuring life on other planets (as well as near-death experiences, angels, visions of light), compel increasing numbers of us to acknowledge the presence of something in ourselves which, when respectfully and fully examined, turns out to be golden. Just as we have capacity for evil, so we have capacity for good. Truly, we are a glorious creation; no matter what is happening around us, always we can choose a higher road. Wherever we shine along that road, the world is not dark. . . .


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maggie davis
207.266.7673
PO Box 370, Blue Hill, ME 04614-0370
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Copyright © 1996 - 2017 maggie davis. All Rights Reserved.