Thursday, March 5, 2009

"And I still love you..."

"Well the sun is surely sinking down
But the moon is slowly rising
So this old world must still be spinning round
And I still love you

So close your eyes
You can close your eyes, its all right
I dont know no love songs
And I cant sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When Im gone

It wont be long before another day
We gonna have a good time
And no one's gonna take this time away
You can stay as long as you like..."

If you are thinking that these lyrics seem familiar, you are right. I wrote Tuesday's post with this song as the keynote, but felt compelled to revisit it today. Deep beneath the surface of my experience with this song as a James Taylor/Carly Simon fan and folk song/lullaby-singing mother, lies a time when this song became my own anthem of comfort and surrender.

It wasn't an easy time, but it was probably one of the most profoundly spiritual periods of my life...and one I rarely talk, or write, about.

It was a long season of confusion, hope, fear, prayer, and anguish. I lived each day in a space of ceaseless prayer, seeking wisdom and guidance for just one more step forward...without falling.  The angel messages from God were clear, but terrifying.  I was being asked to take steps I couldn't even imagine without breaking into a cold sweat.  Hope kept me on my knees praying for "another answer" until my knees were sore and bruised.  My only relief from the relentless "oh, please not this" moments came in the middle of the night when my family was asleep. In the dark hours between midnight and dawn, I could steal away for long self-numbing, exhausting runs, and work with a hospice organization in our city.  This agency coordinated volunteer relief for families with children and teens who were facing terminal illnesses and under palliative...or "end-of-life" and services.  Volunteers were assigned to patients who were in hospitals, hospice centers, or were receiving palliative care in their own homes.

Attending to the basic needs -- hand holding, placing a cool cloth on a fevered brow, reading, singing, talking, listening, cherishing -- of patients so that parents and family members could rest...or even just feel like they could leave the room for a moment...was a release for me.  For a few brief hours between midnight and dawn, I was free from the terror of my own journey through the valley, the wilderness, the desert of human hopes.  It was not that the work was physically demanding, but that it required complete and utter focus, and I welcomed it.  Focusing on the needs of others, was like a deeply needed rest from myself.  It was a divine gift allowing me to be free of retracing my past and agonizing over my future.

There was something so liberating about being able to be present in the moment and just...well,
be.  I was not there as a healthcare professional, I was not there as a Christian Science practitioner, pastoral counselor, or hospital chaplain .  I was serving as a non-denominational lay volunteer.  My only role was to support patients and their families.  It was as much I would eventually learn... beginning the healing of my own grief.

This didn't mean that I wasn't praying, I was. I was always listening for God's life-affirming message concerning what was true about His child, listening for direction about how I could be of help, and listening for His constant reminders that He was present...right there in rooms where things often seemed terribly bleak and void of hope.   There were times when all I could do was silently bear witness to the evidence of His presence.  The face of God in the kindness of a nurse, the tenderness of a mother, the strength and courage of a child facing a journey that no one could provide a map for. But I was not there to give Christian Science treatment. I was not there to give advice or my opinion. I was there to simply give of my heart, my time, my silent certainty of God's presence. And I could give the gift of songs, songs I'd sing just because I loved them and I knew they brought comfort, joy, inspiration, and me, if nothing else.

"You Can Close Your Eyes" was just one of the songs that I sang to myself, and for those patients and their loved ones...devoted family members sleeping in hard plastic chairs, on floors, or in the bed next to a comatose child...night after night. 

I would start with the lullabies I had sung to my daughters earlier in the evening and then move on to hymns, folksongs, songs I had taught children in school,  love songs, gospels...and always to this song of comfort and love.

One night, it was a young man and his sleeping mother (click on this link to read a poem,
"Hospice - You are Not Alone" I wrote at the time, and posted a few years ago on this blog) that I poured my songs out for. And this song was a gift...a promise of rest and peace.  I thought I was singing it for that mother and her well as those who were asleep in hospital beds throughout the city...but after about the tenth time through I realized that I was singing it to myself as well. 

We could all close our eyes.  We could rest, not
from the dripping of medication, the pain of loss, the sorrow of grief...but on the arm of our Father-Mother God.  We could rest in His presence, we could rest upon Her wise and generous preparation of our hearts and lives for the journey each one of us was facing.  And we could rest under Her wings of comfort and protection from the gathering storm of emotions that seemed to toss us to and fro, the glaring heat of self-doubt and regret that came in waves of "could I have done more?" and "what if I'd only..."

I have long loved this song as a child's lullaby, a prelude to sweet slumber.  But as I re-read Tuesday's post, I realized that I couldn't let Tuesday's message stand as the only testament to this song's spiritual impact on my life.  During those nights, this beautiful song was also a sweet, strong, tender companion to me, and a blessing offered to those I sang it for. I was singing for those who slept in darkened rooms where monitors beeped, nurses tiptoed in, mother's wept silent tears of heartache and surrender...and yes, I sang to myself, where in this sacred space and time I was learning the value of just being present, aware, gentle, and humane. I was learning that sometimes it is enough to simply sing a song and rest with another in, on, upon, and under a divine Parent's loving care. An ever-wakeful Parent who is always whispering, "and I still love you..."

"...So close your eyes
You can close your eyes, its all right
I dont know no love songs
And I cant sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone..."

I will never forget those families who taught me so much...i still love you...


  1. Anonymous7:59 AM

    Beautiful, Kate. Thank you.


  2. Anonymous1:50 PM

    What a lovely testament to the power of love reflecting Love! I had a similar experience with the former organist of our church. She became ill and slipped into a coma. I visited her at least twice a week (she was estranged from her family), and the last visit I sang a song which was set to a melody by Bach, her favorite composer. I'm sure you've heard it. The lyrics are a poem by Stanley Jackson.

    God is Spirit, God is here
    God is all and God is everywhere
    Only good did He create
    Only good is theirs who on Him wait
    Man is made in His reflection
    Dwells he now in His protection
    God is Spirit, God is here
    God is all and God is everywhere.

    There is such power in music, an expression of Soul. I love the mental picture of you singing those beautiful words and the peace they brought.