Thursday, June 18, 2009

"I saw what I saw, and I can't forget it..."

"Your courage asks me
what I'm afraid of,
and what I know of Love..."

I love Sara Groves music.  Her song, "I Saw What I Saw," underscores what I have discovered through my work with adolescents who are under hospice care.  My husband, after hearing this song said, "She knows you, doesn't she?"  Yes, she knows me. 

But I believe that this song must resonate with every humanitarian, spiritual caregiver, counselor, or aid worker who has every taken the admonition to "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, feed the poor, visit the fatherless and widows, care for the untouchable, loose the prisoner of his bonds."  I believe that these demands on us are not about our own nobility and another's want or need, but a Father's lessons in grace. Lessons in which we -- as caregivers -- discover our true identity and worth. And the "cared for" are graciously allowing us to learn from them about courage and humility. 

Hospice is just one of the many classrooms I have been privileged to enter, and it has changed me.  But I have also been changed by reading to children and counseling moms in a battered women's shelter,  by serving meals at a homeless center, and by serving as a chaplain in hospitals, prisons, and jails.  However it is my time as a hospice volunteer that has taught me the most about courage and hope.

Hospice care provides support to patients and their families through palliative care, life transition counseling, and pastoral (or spiritual) care,   Hospice services are provided in hospitals, private facilities, and in homes where patients can live surrounded by their loved ones and in an environment that is familiar to them.  

This volunteering was not connected with my work as a Christian Science practitioner (providing spiritual treatment) or under the auspices of hospital chaplaincy.  This was simply an opportunity for me to give at a time when I desperately needed to feel that I could make a difference.  It was about hand-holding, cool compresses, warm blankets, and listening -- lots and lots of listening.

And this work did change me.  It asked me what I was so afraid of. It asked me to consider what I was really made of. And it asked me what I truly knew of God -- of impartial and universal Love.

I remember one night when a young patient watched as his mother slept fitfully by his side, slumped in exhaustion. He summoned every bit of strength he had to reach out and touch her face. 

I remember a father who worked two jobs to pay for medications so that his daughter could live pain free, even though his rigorous work schedule deprived him of precious time with her.

The teenager who surmounted his own fear of death so that he could sit at the bedside of a friend. And the tired nurse who found the inner strength needed to comfort yet another family who'd received an unthinkable diagnosis.

Through this work I have learned that questions about death are irrelevant to those who are living with every fibre of their being -- one moment at a time.  Living "in the moment" is not a self-help ideal, it is a present awareness of the power of Life asserting itself. 

Our Father-Mother God loves us. He/She wants us to discover the depth of our living. Loves us enough to ask that we go to the bed of pain, walk with our brethren along the road of want, lift up the broken and despairing -- and with each step, be made new.

I saw what I saw and I can't forget it
I heard what I heard and I can't go back
I know what I know and I can't deny it

Something on the road,
cut me to the soul..."

offered with Love,



  1. Anonymous3:10 PM

    Dear Kate, this reminds me of my mom. A few years ago she was coming to visit alone for a week or two. I was so excited. I wanted to sit with her and ask every question I'd ever had about her life path. When she arrived, I realized I was burying her. She had no interest in sitting still ... off we went, driving here and there. And she had no interest in looking back. She was here. Now. And life was a banquet.

    When she did have just days left I tried to say goodbye. "We don't say good-bye," she said, looking forward as she was to meeting her own mom, whom she lost at 7 or 8 (can you imagine?). And she was glorious in her last days. My sister said there were times when the lines were gone ... her skin was pink and glowing like a baby's. Her expression, ecstatic. I loved her life, and I love her going. She showed me there is no going ...

  2. what a wonderful legacy your mom shared with you....and what a gift you have given me in sharing it here...dearest love, k.