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no boundaries

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Curious to see what brought me to where I am today, this two-year old post — written within days of starting a new job in hospice spiritual care — points to the many wonderful things I learned while serving the dying and their loved-ones. Deep bows to all who taught me.


Went to room 724 yesterday and found Bert* in bed, facing the ceiling. A man in his eighties, eyes half-shut, skin clinging to jaw and skull, mouth open with lower teeth missing, breathing irregularly. Except for chest and head, his body is barely noticeable below the blanket, little more than a shadow. 


His wife Sybil* stands in the middle of the room, looking lost, distraught. We connect quickly as she tells me of their life together, the worsening of his condition, bringing Bert to hospice “because I can not longer lift him;” thirty years caring for a disabled child; being at wit’s end. “I hope he’ll die soon, this is not quality of life,” and a little later “maybe I have another ten years to live; I’d like to go on a cruise before I die.”  


As I listen, she weeps; we both do. Tiny tissue papers all bunched up, too small to absorb these tears. Sybil speaks of guilt: how could I wish him to die … but … it would be best for him. Am I being selfish? she wonders. Taking care of yourself is healthy and right, I offer.  


We move to Bert’s bed, I touch his feet through the covers. “God willing, he won’t suffer much longer,” Sybil whispers. Instinctively, I take the cue and offer a prayer: “Dear God, have mercy on Bert, make his pain go away and call him home. Please bless Sybil and give her strength as she cares for him.” To which she adds, “and Peter as well.” Not used to praying, I listen as these words exit my lips, tokens of comfort and reassurance. We remain standing a while longer, looking at her dying husband. “I feel a little better now, thank you!” says Sybil, “rich or poor, old or young, we’re all together.”   


Leaving the room my feet barely touch the ground, my heart overflows with joy. Turning down the hall way, the first person I meet receives my embrace. No boundaries.   


* names are fictitious


3 responses »

  1. I find these blogs very useful since our family just lost a first cousin to cancer and we, Mother and I had visited with her on the last day of her life here on earth. For me there was a sense of uncomfortableness, but Mom was right there with Teresa, touching her, talking to her, asking questions even though she was not present in to us in the ability to communicate with words. Just her breath, and moans of dreams or discussion with God…
    So I am grateful for the repost of these sense I have never read them before… I am moved by your sharing!

    I am Love, Jeff

  2. i believe when a person shows up and is genuinely present, showing us who they really are, wondrous things happen. it seems to me peter that your time in hospice has laid the ground for you to be in the world today, now, in this moment, to be who you are.

    an old post is a new post read now with new eyes. it touches me to read of your past experience and see how life circles around us, changing in subtle ways and all the time nudging us to be here now (thanks Ram Dass!).

    recently, a friend shared this quote by a Catholic Bishop in defence of Galileo ‘what you love reveals itself to you.’

  3. thank you, nancy. “work is love made visible,” says Kahlil Gibran*. it is good to check the markers along the path from time to time: to see where we came from.



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