The Sacredness of Holding Space

hold space

When my mother was dying she came to visit for a few weeks. She lived with my sisters in South Florida and I lived in Orlando. My mother’s health had deteriorated significantly in a matter of six months. Cancer was eating at her through every cell and pore of her existence. It (the cancer) became the focus of everything. She was waiting on death to finally take her. She had stopped taking her medicine and refused to eat. I began to see my mother as a little girl needing the support of others. It was in those final hours leading to her death that I learned what it was to hold space for another. It was then that I realized the frailty of life and all we take for granted.

Holding space for someone who is sick or dying is about walking along their side without judgment, not making them feel inadequate and allowing their essence to feel free to just be. My mother taught me many things about our relationship those last few weeks of her life. I had to offer unconditional support with patience and a sacredness that didn’t come easy at times. I had to step back and remember integrity and dignity of a dying person. We only want to be heard…to the last dying breath. Her need to always control all situations had diminished. What was left in its place was humility and the acceptance that she was frail and vulnerable. She was afraid. She was resentful at times. But, most of all she wanted to feel loved no matter how hard she pushed.

There are times we find that holding space is truly the only thing we can do for another. This time was about allowing her to just be ever present without trying to fix anything. I was reminded recently of these memories when I visited one of my clients at a facility. Now under hospice care, she just needed to have me there even while not knowing who I am. She just needed me to hold her hand and touch her. My mother craved for this caress in the end of her life, but her pain from cancer was unbearable. She would reach out in the silence of the room to just acknowledge her presence. With each hand touched it was as if she was saying, “Sweetheart, I am still here. Do you see me? Do you feel me? Don’t forget me!”

The act of holding sacred space is important in all relationships. Children need this time to know they are being loved and cared for unconditional. Lovers require this cherished time to show their union. Even pets provide the perfect cues for this sacredness. We are in need of these sanctified moments that express in silence to another, “I am here for you. There is nothing to do. I see you. I feel you. I acknowledge your life.”

You matter. He matters. She matters. Our presence is all that connects us to God. Holding space is about being present without distractions and allowing another to feel Divinity through the eyes of your love.

You are brave

courage

I see courage and vulnerability every day. It passes by me in the supermarket aisle wearing a thin smile without a wig while holding a child. It holds a sign at the traffic light asking for money or shelter after serving this great nation. It has sat next to me at a doctor’s office quietly waiting for answers. It is the voice from a loved one saying that her mate passed on after a long battle with cancer. It is the child who has no parents and has been in foster care for years waiting for a family. I have visited with heroes and bravery from all walks of life whose tears leave scars as they fall down their cheeks. We are all brave and courageous. Each breath in life is a step full of courage. We are here surviving this race of humanity. Be kinder to one another. Open your heart to all that’s around you. Who cares what your political or religious beliefs are because in the end that matters to no one. The sick need love. The hurt need a shoulder. The test here is true empathy to one another without expectation. And…you need to remember that you are not alone in this fight for life. One day you are on top and another you are holding for dear life. Struggles are all part of our lessons. Whether you are black, white,yellow, gay, straight, Democrat, Republican, Christian, Jewish, or a non-believer you will find yourself battling in this journey. You are not exempt from obstacles or challenges. You are not exempt from surviving or just merely existing. No one leaves here alive!

I am often asked what church I attend on Sundays. My answer is the church of nature and humanity. I don’t need to enter a temple to hear about God when all I do is see God walking around everywhere in each soul who passes me. We forget to look outside of the walls, the box, and truly notice the world. What good is entering sacredness for an hour one day a week to then turn away from every test the Divine places in my path? Nothing HUGE has to happen to be brave. Nothing extraordinary needs to shift in order to be vulnerable. Just getting up is a battle at times that requires every cell to remind us that we matter. So as you enter this Sunday morning with your beliefs, religious theologies and prayers please think of all those who have nothing but their own beliefs that they are making. Be brave enough to know that you aren’t alone. I love you. I love you because you and I are in this together no matter what! My arms are open to hold your struggle in thoughts and prayers from any place.

Surviving Life

The other day, standing at the check-out aisle a man asked me if I had survived cancer.  I turned around and with a smile asked, “No!  But do you know something that I don’t? ” He said that my tattoo (which I forget I have since it’s on my back right below the neck) reminded him of someone who had survived some kind of health issue.  I smiled back and said, “I have.  I have survived life.”  He of course, smiled widely.  The cashier at this point laughed.  I continued, “We all survive life one way or another.  As magical and tender as it can be one moment, it can go sour real quick and push you over the edge.”  The cashier mumbled, “I hear you, like working in this place all day long.”

We all wear scars, some visibly while others deep seated inside the soul.  Only we know of their existence.  When we are ready to share with another the scars seem to heal slowly.  Those scars are road maps to the past.  They can guide us with strength onto the next journey.  I was raped at 18.  The scar from the violence laid silence for years inside.  It wasn’t until I allowed the secret to come out that I began to heal.  I choose not to play the role of victim but survivor.  We all survive.  We can survive with dignity and carry those battle scars with pride, or we can play the martyr and victim creating a story for the rest of our life.  Whatever you choose defines you.  There is nothing perfect in this world.  Mind, body and spirit are united to carry us through everything we do in our timelines.

Life is not symmetrical.  It isn’t perfect.  It is full of oxymoron characters, messy contradictions, juicy imperfections, scars of pain, but mostly it is filled with the awareness that the journey is always the best part.   Relish those things you enjoy.  Find freedom through forgiveness.  Wear those scars outside like a tattoo.  I love passing my hands through someone’s scars.  It allows me to be part of their survival.  You have survived every second of your life.  Don’t allow the pain to paralyze you or dictate how you will continue on this beautiful journey.  In the end, those are the moments that will carry you through the path of joy inside.  It is then that Spirit is holding your hands.   Life is to be attended through the joy and contentment of simple moments.  It can be through a conversation at the grocery store with a stranger or while holding your best friend’s hand.  Find the balance between this moment and all that awakes in you.  Experience the awakening and let it take you wherever it needs to go with scars, tattoos and all.

“It matters not what road we take but rather what we become on the journey.” – from a fortune cookie

Touching Spirits

hands around world

Something happens among strangers who aren’t trying to impress or move through egotism. There’s a mystical connection and awareness through a touch, a word, small conversation or a glance. Life simply exists without the expectation of fulfilling the other. Strangers dive into the rarest form of freedom and many times without filtering truth. At least this happens with me a lot.

This morning I went to Goodwill to drop off stuff and decided to go in to get my daughter something for her computer. As I was kneeling in the electronic area I heard the most beautiful melodic male voice singing along to the store’s music. He was right behind me. Without getting up or turning around I said to him, “You have one of the loveliest voices I’ve ever heard!” I got up and looked at a gentleman in his late 60’s or early 70’s.

He kindly said, “Wow, thank you! When I was younger I sang all the time. I have had cancer three times and with it and the chemo my voice has disappeared.” He shared a glimpse to his stories.

At that very moment I got closer to him, looked into the depth of his brown eyes and said, “You are a gift to still be standing here and singing with such hope. You are a miracle. How very awesome to walk near death but continue this journey of faith through humanity!”

The man smiled, began to tear up as I could see he was having an ‘Aha Moment.’  I witnessed his humanness and ego take a backseat. I could see in seconds through the glances that his wheels were turning reacting to memories, the past, history, and life events.

“I can’t tell you what your words have meant to me right now,” He began to speak as he composed his spirit. “I have rarely been grateful for anything, less this horrible disease until you just said this. Thank you!”

I smiled, touching his hand in mine, “Keep on singing! You touch others with that magical voice. You touched me.”

He hugged me and dropped the items from his hands on the shelf and left the store gathering his tears through his fingers. I felt horrible for a second but knew the message didn’t come from me. This devotion of gratitude was something the Divine needed to share with this man through sacredness. As I sat in my car I began to shed tears for my own gratitude, compassion, humanness and kindness. I, too, walk here in a journey of faith and hope.

This stranger’s spirit touched the core of my flustered essence today. I needed his song to move me just as much as he needed to hear words of encouragement. What a mystical union. I am forever touched by strangers, their kindness, wisdom, laughter, smiles, and stories. We are all connected holding the earth up with love, stories, and hope.

The Mystery of Sorrow

Our dear friend, Jef, lost his mother to cancer today.  Even though he has helped others with grief and loss, Jef personally had not lost a close family member.  I cannot imagine what he must be feeling right now.  I sent him a message this morning and his gentle words returned, “Oh Millie, deepest thank you for your love.  Please write something today about how the mystery of sorrow is mixed together with the secrets of surrounding joy.  I will need to read it from your pondering sweet heart.  Love in big ways.  Your Jef”

After I composed my tears I felt a sense of gratitude for his mother finally letting go.  She hung tightly to this world.  Her body deteriorating, her pain evident, and I believe she just wanted permission to finally be set free.  The agony of what’s to come for the dying is one I will never comprehend.  It is a personal one.  I have spoken to people who work for Hospice and have been told that the dying usually wait for when they are alone to pass on.  Their souls need this privacy.

I have no wisdom when it comes to loss.  No matter what I write or say the loss of those we love is inexplicable.  We can be prepared for it but when the moment arrives it is as if the logical mind and the heart go separate ways.  I felt it with my mother five years ago.  I saw her tiny body embraced in a bed, peacefully lying as if she was asleep.  I was comforted with the knowing that she was finally free of the pain and discomfort and mostly of the fears.  She feared death.  Days before she died she asked me what I thought would happen to her.  I held her hand and told her that she would finally be at peace.  I assured her that she would feel so much love.  I expressed my beliefs about the afterlife.  The entire time of our conversation she looked at me with her glossy eyes and smiled.  My dear mother wanted permission to die.  In those moments of my assurance she received the message that we would be okay without her here.  It is always hard to comprehend what the dying think of their legacy.  They fear so much in so many levels.  It isn’t just the worrying of what can happen after the spirit leaves the body but for some the closure of the loved ones left behind.   “How will they make it without me?”

Grief does not change you.  It reveals the innermost part of your spirit.  To watch a loved one diminish and suffer is hell here on earth.  There is no relief in that.  The comfort is finally breathing and understanding that we are not immortal.  We came here momentarily to love, learn and experience life.   In the sadness of loss comes the joy of celebrating a life fully lived.  So often we mourn the death instead of rejoicing the life and what that soul offered us in our journey.

I have never stopped having a mother, a father, grandparents and so many who have passed.  They are still with me in memories, stories, and choices I make.  We don’t stop having these loved ones because their bodies aren’t here.  They evolve into another plane of existence which lives in our hearts.  But, no matter what way we prepare for loss it is still a lonely heart ache.  No two people will feel the same.  My sisters miss their mother in different ways.  I miss her for her strength and tenacity.  I miss friends who have passed for their love and laughter.  The hardest part of grieving is the finality.  I still miss my mother’s phone calls on my birthday, holidays and special events.  She was always the first to call me.  And so on days like that I light a candle in front of her picture that’s sits on my desk.  I say a prayer of gratitude and allow the light of divinity to guide me during those sad moments.

I have no words for Jef that can mend this moment.  I have little wisdom when it comes to the grieving heart.  What I do have is the “knowing” that those who pass leave a little part of themselves behind.  They begin to show us that they are at peace through a favorite song, a lovely poem, a sign from the universe, and in the comforting realm of dreams.  Celebrate the life lived.  Explore the mystery of sorrow and allow those moments to pass.  Honor the legacy with grace, compassion and faith.  Rejoice in the stories of the past.  And, in the moments of solitude and despair reach into your heart and know you are never alone.

 

You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” – Anne Lamott