I have been touched at depth by having had the opportunity to sit at the bedside of countless people walking the path of knowing they were letting go into death. Before starting The Light Center, in Baldwin, Kansas, I served as a hospice chaplain and stress management consultant for a large hospice in Kansas City.
Previously I had been a nurse and had I been visiting these folks in that capacity; I would have focused on pain management and medications. But in the seat of the chaplain, I was free to spend my entire visit talking about what was really going on at the level of heart and soul. It was a learning experience that I will treasure always, and has helped me so much as I have walked with my own family members to the edge of life.
Heal vs Cure
One lesson that has been embedded in me is that to watch someone heal has nothing to do with curing an illness. They are different tasks, and whether someone is cured of an illness is not a measure of the healing journey being experienced. Sure, we all love to think that we could offer our healing work and prayers with someone and they will rise up and be cured.
Ten years of working only with people who were terminally ill, however, taught me that I have no idea when it is the right time for someone to leave their physical body. There clearly is a process in which the soul prepares and likely learns a great deal. It is evident that inner work goes on for weeks and even months as conversations are happening with people I cannot see. The work is not mine to do and so I find myself in the role of guide, witness and conduit of the Light.
All healing work is self-healing and so the lessons learned from hospice care has bled over into all of the healing sessions that I offer. It is a workout to stay out of my agenda and support the process of the person I am witnessing. Their soul knows exactly what it is doing and has deeply held agendas that I may never see clearly. They are free to go as far as they choose into the journey of healing of their life.
I would like to share this poem that I wrote after visiting with a hospice patient many years ago. I truly give thanks to him and hundreds of others who were such amazing teachers for me.
Letting Go Softly
I watch you lying there, not asleep, not awake
Your face radiant, your eyes shining.
The corners of your mouth turn up
As if you are pleased with what you see.
Your body self is here but at times
The rest of you is not.
Where do you go when you leave my side?
I can’t really know,
Yet somehow I think you’ve left this old body
Of which you have grown so weary,
And gone off to dance with the angels.
Free of pain,
Your heart is free to sing its own song.
I love you but I don’t wish to hold you
Here to suffer.
This other place that you see
Is what I want for you now;
A place of peace.
What a comfort it is to know
That others have come to take your hand
And show you the way,
To take my place at your side
And go with you where I cannot go just yet.
What a blessing for me to sit with you.
What a privilege to share
In your quiet moments of mystery.
In your peaceful presence
I feel so close to the edge of this earthly life.
Bless you my friend
For it is in these magical moments of quiet,
I feel as though I can reach out with my heart
And touch the very hem of the garment.