Gift my Room with Your Presence*
Step over the threshold, my door is open. I may be dying; I may be ill. Enter as if you have never entered this room before, as if holiness awaits you. A new time zone, a new rhythm, a new hope. Walk in, leave behind what you know. Come to me with what you don’t know. Come with open heart; come with your own longings and dreams.
I dwell. In this place there is awe though it doesn’t appear so. This dwelling place is new. For time slows. Hurry no longer belongs. Time moves into timelessness. Pines have a deeper fragrance. Leaves a deeper green. And we have time to let them speak to us. We have time to listen to the wind, listen to stars moving their brightness into our hearts.
So in my room, learn to dwell. Dwell as if in paradise. How? Allow your mind to shine. Notice light and shadows, breath and stillness. Be the peace that enables us to companion each other on the way home. Turn to poetry, sacred texts, music, nature images, a peaceful silence supporting our journey.
We are on retreat together.
I invite you to be on retreat as I lie here for my last days, hours, months, even years. Bring your sacred self, the one that dwells in the beauty of Creation, the one that knows how to rest in meadows. Allow yourself to rest here in my room. Be eager to encounter the divine mystery.
Imagine what it feels like when you are on an actual retreat: you might go out into nature and bask in the sun or lie awake at night under the stars. Maybe you would be in a monastery and take part in Benedictine chanting with the monks. Maybe you would dance or ride the waves at a beach or fly a kite and clap your hands.
On your retreat you might ask: what do I need in my life that reflects meaning, goodness, joy of spirit? How can this dying experience teach me how to live more fully? What do I need to do to grow my soul as I watch the ending of one life and imagine the hope of another?
I ask you, my caregivers: How can my dying make your life richer? That is what I want for you.
Springtime & Reflections
Reflect on your acceptance or resistance to change. Know that I have these also. Help me not to fear change and the unknown, and at the same time, help yourself as we welcome the One who comes to take me out of this life. Whose hands are outstretched toward me, Death, the Giver of Life, assuring me that change does not mean oblivion. Death comes, not as demon but as bringer of a changed new life. Let us welcome this event with grace.
Yes, there will be times when dark shadows cross our path, grief grips us and we wish Death wasn’t here, we wish for flowers. Let this be so and may we also remember that grief is not all there is, that it is one sacred part of the whole. Grant me the courage to live in truth and in the midst of sorrow, sing. When it feels like we might drown in sadness, come to springtime in the death of this winter.
Imagine the resurrection of springtime in this room. It could be the day before Easter, the day before death is defeated by Risen Life. If you’re not Christian, you know about the death of winter, the resurrection of springtime. Waiting in the dark before the blossoming, waiting for the light of dawn to emerge out of horrific grief on a Cross, out of the grief of your own many losses. Waiting for truth to dawn IN us: Love is stronger than death. Love conquers all obstacles. Love triumphs beyond all our pain.
Our imaginary springtime journey takes us along a path of orange trees. White budding orange blossoms begin to bloom, their fragrance blessing us with good tidings. Tiny buds soon to blossom, alive in avocado leaves call us to pay attention or we’ll miss the moment of their birth. Will we miss the moment of our birth as our thoughts wander onto our problems, missing the moment to rejoice as those buds, as our lives, bring forth beauty into the world? Are we patient enough, diligent enough, to welcome the birth that is coming?
Further down the path, we walk among massive boulders, poppies, lilacs in their white wedding gowns. Those boulders cannot crush life being born among them. Death cannot crush me either. And those lilacs? They sing out: I will spring forth gentleness in the midst of these boulders; in the midst of a dry and arid land, in the midst of physical pain, I will burst forth into loveliness.
Will we be present to this living moment to burst forth into loveliness in our own lives? To be present to the pain of my dying, its grief, discomfort, and its hope? You, my dear caregivers, have a wonderful opportunity to practice staying awake while I might be sleeping or drifting, unable to be awake to your beautiful face and hands aiding me on my journey. My request: can you be as gentle as those lilacs amidst some tough moments in my life?
Use this time to bring beauty into my life and yours. Listen. The earth is singing in my dying hours. So remind me who I really am no matter what is happening in my body: I am a dancing spirit, a joyful soul! And so are you.
Emotional & Spiritual Healing
For My Caregivers: Springtime Flowers
There could be a time when it is difficult to let go of this life, to let go of a favorite doctor, nurse, friend; dreams not realized, desires not met. This prayer helps me and it may help you.
Joan Englander ©2019
Inside my spirit, emotions,
Imagine thousands of flower petals
floating through my body
coming to rest on my heart.
Tell me to smile
delight in their dance
fragrance of flowers all around
bathing me in silken yellows, lavender
Gardens blooming in my heart
before I die.
Gardens blooming in my heart
after I die.
Gardens singing fragrant melodies
Returning me Home.
Inspired by the poet Kabir
The Kabir Book, Trans. Robert Bly
*Joan Englander ©2019 Top of page