It’s been nine months since I began working in spiritual care at hospice. During that time I’ve had neither a contract, nor medical benefits, holiday pay, union backing, or a pass to get through certain doors. I was hired temporarily while the regular chaplain was on sick leave, without promise of duration or guarantee on either side that it would work out. And still I am here. This work has been the most fulfilling ever: I gladly get on my knees, forehead to the ground, palms raised above me.
I bow in gratitude to the one who hired and gently guides me, the coworkers who took me in and support me each day, the volunteers who let me work alongside … and most of all the patients, families, and caregivers who permit me to step into their lives at times of disorientation and sadness; who let me touch, embrace, and kiss them; share fragments of their life stories with me and ask questions for which I rarely have answers. To the strangers who ask me to pray with them, to bless them, and to sit vigil with the bodies of their departed.
I give thanks to my parents, teachers, and loved ones, my Zen siblings and monastic friends, and all who seek my counsel or come to meditate with me. My deep gratitude to those who inadvertently caused me to suffer, for creating opportunities ofr me to learn about grieving, forgiveness, and compassion. Mille grazies, as the Italians say, their exuberance for once insufficient to express a thousand thanks.
Today, like every other day,
we wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
–Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad, known to us as Rumi, poet and mystic who lived 1203-1273 in what is now Afghanistan.