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.

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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.

Humanity is Tough

This morning I went to get some candles at a store and no sooner did I walk in that a friend called to meet for lunch.  As I was rushing to exit the store I saw this frail older woman looking at towels by the registers.  I passed her but as I got to the sliding glass doors I was drawn to turn around and go speak with her.  I touched her lightly on her arm, “You are such a beautiful woman.  I am drawn by your light.” In total shock and dismay she looked at me and began to cry.  She couldn’t speak.  I continued while reaching for her hands, “I know you must have looked at yourself in the mirror today and spoke to your image very negative ‘cause that’s what we do, but you are stunning!  I hope you see the delightfulness of your being.”

After she composed herself she began, “I am not half the person I used to be.  A year ago this month I had cancer and my intestines have been chopped off.  I’ve lost over 50 lbs.  Chemo has basically killed me.  I am a walking cadaver.  I am not a young woman and I feel even older than what the image in the mirror tells me.”  I began to cry.  Her words carried such loss, desperation, and a complete lack of faith.  “I shouldn’t be here right now.  I’ve passed my expiration date and cannot understand why I am still here.”

I hugged her tightly and said, “Oh my God, what an amazing and magical opportunity to live life to the fullest.  What an incredible journey full of endless possibilities.  Here you are standing in your glory looking all glamorous with an angel by your side.  What an amazing way to take the world by storm because you have been given a second chance.”  She looked through her tears and smiled gasping for more words.

“Thank you!  Thank you for saying this on a day that I felt was my last.  Lately that’s all I am doing is waiting on death to come get me.  I came to this store to distract my thoughts and here you are telling me such beautiful things.”  We both hugged and cried.  She asked me for my name and I just answered, “It doesn’t matter.  I am you.  You are me.”  Quickly I remembered that my friend was in the parking lot waiting for me.  I kissed her hand, rubbed her face with tenderness and exited.  I was so moved into overwhelming sorrow that my friend thought something had happened to me in the store.

We are a tough bunch.  We are harder on ourselves than others.  We are given a zillion chances to see the positive light of hope, and yet, even with scares and obstacles that we overcome through grace we still decide to live in the past of sorrow.  Our humanity has such rough edges.  We don’t stop to touch another with a gentle word or a smile.  Half the time we rush around like if we were in ant colony looking for food.

Now hours later I think of this broken soul.  I came home and lit a candle for her.  She was my teacher today.  A total stranger lifted my hope, grace, and love.  I’ve been her many times.  We all have had moments of pure desperation, thinking of checking out, rushing out of this world to something calmer to find peace.  She will never know what that conversation meant to me.  I only hope she finds the strength to look inside herself and explore that light that is casting out into this world.  That’s really all that matters.  We are reflections of one another.  In the end all we have is our humanness that connects us to divinity. We are never ever, ever alone.

Touch

touch

Two mornings ago, at 4AM, I woke to feed my grand-baby.  In the process I had to run to the bathroom and vomit.  This was the beginning of a long day hurled over a toilet, chills, body aches and trying to make sense of how and where I got sick.  With every release I felt parts of me shutting down.  I would go from the bathroom to the bed and back. I would go to check on the baby who was well taken care by my fiancé.  I needed to touch someone.  I needed to feel the security of life around me.  My state of awareness was fading along with my energy.  Touch via words, physical caress, or a glance was my lifeline.

It is in moments of illness, sadness, turmoil and desperation that human touch is the best cure.  Sometimes it seems like the only healing agent. A stroke on the forehead always seemed to soothe my children when they were sick.  A gentle caress with words of assurance always seems to aid a friend in need.  A rub on the neck or shoulders of a partner seems to remove the stressors of a day.  Touch!  It is that one thing that allows our humanity to cure itself from hatred and prejudice when we least expect it from a stranger.  The touch of hands, a smile, kindness and laughter erase the rough edges from anyone who is hurting quicker than any pill.  It might not last long but it is a start in allowing the mind, body and spirit to reconnect and find equilibrium.

When we are sick we think it is never going to be over.  The pain that progresses in the body creates a barrier of time and space.  We don’t know how we ever felt at our best.  Even a twenty-four hour stomach virus can spark the desire for comfort from another.  The most un-affectionate person can fear being alone.  It isn’t about feeling needy or clingy.  It is about knowing that someone out there has our back.  We are cared in a way that brings us back to the womb.  It reunites childhood emotions of safety, belonging, security and acceptance. The web of human and spirit unite bringing and taking us back to basics. All the medicine in the world can’t fix the necessity to be sustained and held by another.  Touch is vital to our existence.  And, it is even more prominent when we are sick.

I woke better the next day.  My mate and daughter caught it for themselves.  The things I can offer now are touches of love, kisses on their foreheads, gentle nudges, and the assurance that they aren’t alone.  I got their backs.  I can’t take away their symptoms but I can be there for whatever they need.  John Keats said that “touch has a memory.” I believe each caress has an imprinting long-lasting effect that transports spirit when it is done from love.   There’s a connection between relief, reward, reassurance, and release within the walls of our beings.   Our hands carry lifetimes of healing memories.  Within a fingertip we can create the awareness of universal love.

Everyday our lives are touched by desire, creativity, hope, dreams, spirituality, faith, love, and a million other things.  If we are fortunate enough to allow another to enter into our vulnerability we can be touched by God.  It is there that the source of our existence lights the path to every obstacle, malady, disorder and affliction.


“We have lost the art of public tenderness, these small gestures of wiping and washing; we have forgotten how abjectly the body welcomes a formal touch.” ~Anne Enright