The other day a friend called asking if we could get together. I opened my planner and started checking for my next available free time slot. As I shuffled through the pages I began to feel a hint of panic rising in my chest. I had nothing available until after Thanksgiving – at least a week after Thanksgiving!! Feeling guilty, I took a few deep breathes and managed to squeeze a small space of time for a cup of coffee together.
When I got off the phone, I took my planner and went and sat in the lanai and just breathed in God’s air for a few minutes. There is nothing calms me down quicker than sitting out there, surrounded by God’s creation, and just breathing. Then I slowly checked through my planner. Yes, it was very full but I could see that some chunks of time were carved-out-for-me (and husband Rich) time, and I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed and enjoyed the outdoors for a few more minutes before I went on with my day.
I think the panic had come because somewhere inside of me there was this little voice saying, “so you still haven’t learned the Time Lesson yet?”. This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn on my life journey, to rest and pause and give myself some dedicated time to relax and restore. My life has been so much about doing for others and being busy and productive. I was a do-er, not a be-er. I was always taught not to waste time, and some of those lessons die hard, even when they no longer serve me.
This all got me thinking about how even more busy life seems to get around this Holiday Season, and I think that’s what caused the panic. I thought I had fallen into the old trap of getting ridiculously over-busy just because it was the Holiday season. However, a whole week of time is a mini vacation for me and Richard. Right now I’m also enjoying a sort of two-day vacation in Orlando as Richard is involved in a conference and I’m “along for the ride”. And on the way home from here on Friday he will drop me off in Sanford for my Audire program instructional weekend.
I have time slots marked down for Christmas card making, and other spaces for doing my Audire homework. I have some para-professional appointments with people and a doctor’s appointment too. Scattered in and among these appointments are my Pilates classes and a massage appointment; I have most definitely learned to take care of me even in the midst of busyness. There’s a concert with a friend and a Christmas party, even if it is an “official function” connected to Richard’s job.
I know I have written several postings about resting and pausing, sharing some of the reflections from the books I read each morning. Just a couple of weeks ago in the October Daily Word, I read:
When I am out of alignment, my body feels out of sorts, my mind races with thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow. I feel unsettled.
At such times, I have not lost my connection to Spirit, I’ve just become distracted. In conscious awareness, I pause, say a prayer and step away for a few moments in the silence. I immediately begin to feel the Spirit flowing within and through me.
I don’t think we can have enough reminders to “be still and know that I am God”. Fortunately I have a good husband, friends, and many tools that I use to remind me constantly of the need to give myself time, to just simply be. Thanksgiving and Christmas are times to be enjoyed, times to relax, times to give some thought as to why we are here in the bigger scheme of things. Frenetic shopping and filling our calendars with too many activities are not conducive to our inner peace or the harmony of our souls. I encourage everyone to make a commitment to plan some personal quiet spaces in the busyness of the upcoming Holiday Season.
Today I received an incredible gift. Actually I received two gifts: I treated myself to a wonderful facial and during the facial I was gifted with an amazing vision.
I believe that visions come through in very spiritual moments in our life. Moments of grace that open the heart and the mind in a very unique way that allows a connection on another level. I have experienced a few of these as I have grown on my spiritual path. Today’s was very special.
I have mentioned my wonderful massage therapist, Michael, in previous postings. He and his wife, Elisha own a studio together. She is presently about seven months pregnant (and glows with it too!!), and has chosen to take a break from giving full body massage until after the baby is born.
However, she has started offering thirty minute cleansing facials which do not tax her so physically because for the most part she is seated. For me, receiving a facial is the next best piece of heaven after massage, so I lost no time in making an appointment.
Elisha has a soft, gentle, calming spirit and it was very easy to feel comfortable with her. As soon as she placed her hands on my face I knew the session was going to be very special: I felt a golden thread connecting us. My breathing deepened immediately and I was aware of being restored on every level.
Although I was deeply relaxed under Elisha’s touch, I was also very alert. I registered the different aromas diffused in each product that she used at the various stages of the facial process. I was very aware of the changing directions of the strokes she used on my face without interrupting the flow of touch and movement, as well as the slightly different pressure she applied from time to time. And how I reveled in the warmth of the hot towels between each stage of the facial.
Then suddenly, somewhere in the middle of the treatment, I became aware of a soft golden glow that appeared in front of me. It slowly brightened until it shimmered in an incredible brilliant sea of light. And there in the middle, floating contentedly was a baby, and I knew I was seeing Elisha’s son.
The whole vision was simply magnificent and I felt almost breathless. Then in the same way that it had slowly manifested, so it faded away. I wanted to cry out, “No, don’t go yet.” But the gift was complete and I felt so privileged to have received it.
As well as feeling greatly restored and full of peace after my treatment, I was also full of gratitude. Visions do not come along very often and I truly appreciate their God-given presence in my life. And how much more of a blessing this gift was as I was able, with great joy, to share it with Elisha.
I managed to drag myself out of bed at 5.45am today. I am not an easy morning person. Once I am up and get going then I am okay. It’s the clawing my way up out of sleep and letting go of the sheer wonderfulness of being snuggled up that I find hard. But I really want to create a routine for Thursday mornings; going to 8am Mass followed by a special Rosary with a small group.
When I walked into the church the first thing I saw was a closed coffin in the center aisle in front of the altar. We had a funeral Mass set for 11am. I am part of the Ministry of Consolation and knew of this, but hadn’t expected the coffin to be there already. Then as I took my place I realized I had sat behind Jim. So between the coffin and Jim I was thrown into the reservoir of my memory.
You see, another area in which I volunteer is with an agency called Community Hospice of North East Florida. I had been introduced to this agency by a new friend just a few months after arriving here in January 2004. My mother had been cared for by Hospice in London, UK during the period between her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer (12 February 1996) and her passing (9May 1996). So I determined that I would become a volunteer with the organization here in gratitude for those wonderful nurses.
I underwent training in July of 2004 and was assigned to my first patient in August. The main thrust of Community Hospice’s work is to be there in full support for the patient and family, offering compassionate care, and to help lend dignity and meaning to the patient’s end stages of life. My role as a volunteer is to offer respite to the main care-giver as often as possible, allowing them some time to run errands or have some personal breathing space without having to worry about their loved one. It is a small mercy that I feel I can give to someone in such circumstances.
Over the intervening years I have also trained as a Peds Volunteer, a Complementary Care Volunteer, a Spiritual Care Volunteer, and an Ambassador (volunteering on behalf of Community Hospice at Health Fairs and speaking to small groups about the services the agency offers). But back to Jim.
I met Jim almost two and a half years ago when I was assigned as a volunteer to his wife, Cindy. I will never forget walking into their living room and seeing the look of total fascination on Cindy’s face. She could not take her eyes off of my hair. My hair is somewhat noticeable – it is purple! As Jim and I talked I would look over at Cindy from time to time to include her in our conversation even though it soon became obvious that she did not speak, and always her eyes were on my hair. So I got up and went over to her and asked her if she wanted to touch it, just to check out that it was real. She did so, rubbing it gently between her fingers as though she were touching a piece of fabric. And so our relationship was cemented.
Cindy was diagnosed with Frontal Lobe Syndrome (I don’t remember what the correct medical term is), a disease that slowly robs a person of their emotions, their ability to speak, then takes away their strength as the brain shuts down pixel by pixel. When I first started visiting with Cindy, even though she could no longer initiate or maintain a conversation, she still was able to communicate in her own way. When I asked if she wanted something she would either just look at me with no real expression or reaction, indicating no, or she would take a deep breath in, raise her eyebrows, and sigh her breath out, indicating yes.
In the early months of our visits when she was still mobile, even though she couldn’t talk, Cindy had a mind of her own. We would be sitting watching TV and suddenly she would be up out of her chair and headed for the stairs or the front door. I would have to be quick off the mark to catch up with her and gently but firmly bring her back to her chair. If it wasn’t too swampy-Florida hot, then we would go for a walk in the neighborhood and I would be hard pressed to keep up with her! Often we would spend time in the garden on the swinging chair watching the birds and the squirrels.
It was on one of these rushes to the front door that she suddenly stopped beside a small cabinet just inside the door. There were a couple of objects laid out on top of the cabinet along with two Rosaries. Her hand reached out to touch these and I asked her if she would like to say a Rosary. Deep breath, eyebrows raised, great sigh out. So we each carried a Rosary back to our chairs and I began the prayers. Imagine my surprise as I realized she was whispering the second half of the Hail Mary. And so began a ritual that would take place almost every time I visited.
Cindy loved receiving hand and foot massages and when I arrived she would always check out if I had my purple tote with me. That was where I carried my creams and a towel. Sometimes I would bring paperwork that I needed to do and would immerse myself in that after making sure she was comfortable and didn’t need anything. But I would soon become aware of movement coming from her direction. Looking up I would see that she was leaning forward and her eyes were fixed on my tote. As soon as I touched the bag she would lift her hands, deep breath in, raise her eyebrows, sigh out.
It was during one of these massages that I was given the gift of the “presence” of Cindy. I happened to look up at her face as I was gently rubbing the cream into her hand and I saw a tear roll down her cheek. Initially I was concerned that perhaps inadvertently I had hurt her, and I let go of her hand, came close to her face and put my hand on her cheek and asked what was wrong. She just looked at me with those beautiful deep eyes of hers and lifted her hand to me as if to say “just keep on massaging”.
Another way that I shared time with Cindy was to watch DVD’s. Her all-time favorite was Disney’s Anastasia. I had never watched that movie before. I guess it became popular after my daughter had become a teenager and was beyond Disney. I think I could recite it word for word, song for song now. There was only one other video that competed with Anastasia for Cindy’s attention – Shrek, and I know that one pretty much inside out too!
The seventeen months that I spent with Cindy were a true gift, a joy. Being able to give her friendship and care was an honor and a privilege. But another gift that I received during this time was given to me by Jim. He allowed me to experience the true marriage commitment of “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part”. His love, dedication to, and care of Cindy right up to her last breath were deeply moving and nothing short of spectacular. I feel truly blessed to have been a part of their lives.