A Prayer for Those of Us Who Are Aging

I found this 17th Century Prayer among the mementos my mother kept. Attributed to a 17th Century nun, I have adapted its language and some of its words and phrasing:

Photo: by Borya via Flick’r

PRAYER FOR THOSE OF US WHO ARE AGING

Lord, You know me better than I know myself–that I am growing older and will some day be old.

Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every occasion. Release me from the need to straighten out everyone’s affairs.

Make me thoughtful but not moody–helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a shame not to use it all, but you know, Lord, I would like to have a few friends at the end.

Keep me free from the endless recital of details–give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips when it comes to talking about my aches and pains. They are increasing and the love of rehashing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I don’t dare to ask to enjoy tales of the miseries of others, but do help me to listen to them patiently.

I won’t ask You for improved memory, but for a growing humility and less stubbornness when my memory clashes with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably sweet–not a Saint–some of them are hard to live with. A sour old personal is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the grace to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people. And remind me, Lord, to tell them so.

AMEN

I have been remiss in keeping up with this blog and this seemed to be to be a good way to jump in again. I think the prayer applies to all of us, not only those of us who have already arrived on the old end of the aging spectrum.

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but the Lord was not in the violent wind

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

but the Lord was not in the violent wind
1 Kings 19:11

whisper to me, gentle breeze
breath divine, speak love
heart me now, creative word
paint me strokes of wild color
float me high above fluffy clouds
wandering, wispy, wondering
where you hide
play me strings of harmony
lull me into grace,
oh, gentle breeze

 

Fear Not!

fray-1I’ve been MIA due to a family issue. My 95-year-old Mom is now receiving hospice care and I was able to spend 10 meaningful days with her in Southern California. We were able to say the things we need to say to those we love to one another. Though she has been in the throes of dementia for a number of years, God gifted us with moments of very lucid sharing.

After ten days, I needed to return home, but left with a sense of peace that, whatever happens next, it will be as God wills. The day after I left, Mom decided it was not quite time to die and asked for a Big Mac and French Fries! Now she seems to be back to where she was before I flew down to be with her. 

When I worked as a hospice nurse, I often had time to help family members say those precious things that help both the person moving on and the one left behind to deal with the reality of life. I’d like to share them with you.

  • I forgive you.
  • Please forgive me.
  • Thank you for being a part of my life.
  • It’s okay to go.
  • I love you.

Of course, it’s always good and wise to say those words (and mean them) long before death is at the door, but it is a great comfort to do so when a loved one is actively dying, if possible. In reality, this opportunity is not always offered to us. People die suddenly. People refuse to allow another person back into their lives after a lifetime of animosity. Sometimes, a person cannot feel what they are saying if there has been a history of abuse or ill-feelings, but that doesn’t mean we can’t WILL to forgive or love. 

What if you don’t have the chance to say those words? One healing way I’ve seen put into action is to write a letter to the deceased loved one. Go ahead, and put it all out there. Be specific about that forgiveness thing, looking at both side of the equation.

I’ll end with a short anecdote. The religious order I was a part of cared for the elderly and when a patient was dying, we watched and prayed with them 24/7, sharing 3 hour shifts in the middle of the night. It could be quite a challenge, especially if a person took their time letting go.

One time, a woman seemed to hang on forever. Her daughter came by off and on during the day. Because the lady appeared comatose, the younger woman just sat with her. After a week or so I asked the daughter to step outside for a moment. I asked her if there was any unfinished business between her and her mother. The woman took a deep breath, sighed and admitted that her mother had been abusive to her throughout her life. I asked if she had ever been able to tell her that she forgave her. Her eyes filled with tears and she just shook her head. I explained that, even though her mother was unconscious, the sense of hearing often remained with a person and suggested she go in the room and say what she needed to say, as best she could. She hugged me and went into the room alone. What was said, I have no idea, but moments later she called me back in and we watched as her mother, seemingly peaceful, let go.

This is not what I expected to write about when I logged into my dashboard, but who am I to question? Here is the quote I chose to reflect on. We can’t be afraid to journey with another at the end of life. God will be with us.

Note: I wrote this post at the beginning of the month and didn’t realize I had left it in draft form. I believe the message is still meaningful, so here it is. My mother is still holding her own. The process of letting go is as unique as every person.

 

 

 

Shame

I’m ashamed. I have been so negligent in posting to this blog and the reality is, my life is a Christian is so much more important to me than poetry or photography–the subject of my other two blogs.

But then, I think about a book I read over 25 years ago by John Bradshaw, a popular self-help guru at the time, Healing the Shame That Binds You, in which the author describes the toxicity of shame because it focuses on self image, the perception of our failure. As Christians, we have the ability to take our guilt to Jesus and accept his forgiveness, his loving compassion.

I suffer from the spiritually deadly disease of perfectionism and I can’t tell you how often I turn in my prayer to the image of the parable of the Prodigal Son and soak in the unconditional love of God for us. I say disease because, like shame, perfectionism focuses on self not love of God and others.

So I offer, once again, a copy of Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son, and image I like to visualize when I’m turning inward instead of upward.

 

Image: Rembrandt The artist represented the abundance of parental love by painting one male hand and one female hand.

Image: Rembrandt–Detail
The artist represented the abundance of parental love by painting one male hand and one female hand.

Image: Rembrandt's Prodigal Son Wikipedia Commons

Image: Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son
Wikipedia Commons

As for my shame in not posting for a while, I will do what Bradshaw suggests: let go, do what you have to do to change (or to accept the lack of time and inspiration it takes to blog) and move on! Have a blessed week.

 

In Memoriam

A number of years ago Easter fell on April 8th, the anniversary of the day my father lost his life in WWII. He was 23 years old, as was my mother. I was 3 months. Periodically, I re-post this and since today is Memorial Day in the USA, I thought I would share it here.

p1020550

April Eighth

An article in the Smithsonian
alluded to the Holy
Shroud of Turin.
The image of Christ
seared radiologically
into a burial cloth.
A violent burst of energy.
A life-seed
in a closed space
blowing out boundaries.
Stories of an empty tomb.

Easter comes early
this year.
Daffodils explode in
the front garden,
sheltered by a warm wall.

April eighth,
nineteen forty-four.
A seed plummets to earth,
wrapped in a metal
death-womb.
Ejaculated from heaven,
it burrows into dank soil.
Buried.
Fragmented.
Combusted in another
surge of energy.

Months go by:
a year to the day.
Someone in the
War Department
types the letter on
a piece of onion-skin paper.
Words smudged by an
over-used ribbon tell
the woman to move on with her life.
The child will never call him
daddy.

Oh, Chosen One

Russian Icon of the Prophet Isaiah--Wikipedia Labeled for noncommercial reuse.

Russian Icon of the Prophet Isaiah–Wikipedia, labeled for noncommercial reuse.

This morning, my reading took me to the second book of Isaiah, known as The Book of Consolation in my translation. I never tire of reading this, the voice of God through his prophet reminding me over and over again that, in spite of myself, God continues to choose me.

I’m revisiting a book that I read years ago,

Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types by Chester Michael and Marie Norrisey

that helps us explore avenues of prayer suited to one’s personality type as defined by the Myers-Briggs. For people like me who can’t exist without time for prayer and quiet (Intuitive, Feeling) one prayer form that the authors recommend is Lectio Divino (Divine Reading), that is reading and entering into dialogue with God about what one has read. They suggest when reading Second Isaiah, to insert your own name whenever God is addressing Israel.

Check out these verses, for example. I will leave a blank, for you to substitute your name:

“But now, thus says the Lord,
who created you, ________, and formed you, _______:
do not fear for I have called you by name.
You are mine.” Is. 43: 1

“Hear then, ________, my servant,
_________, whom I have chosen.
Thus says the Lord, who made you,
your help, who formed you from the womb:
Do not fear, __________, my servant,
____________, whom I have chosen.” Is. 44: 1-2

This is what it is all about, isn’t it? Bringing home scripture, making it alive today in our own experience. Remembering that we are God’s chosen and he is speaking to us. Divine reading, indeed!

If you have never taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment, may I suggest this book, a simple test and analysis of all 16 temperaments…helpful not only for prayer, but also in understanding personal relationships. My husband and I are the exact opposites on one another–complementary and challenging! (Click on the book titles to access these books on Amazon).

Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types Paperback by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates

By the way, for the fiction writers among you, this is the book I use to help me to develop characters who are consistent, but who will also throw in an occasional surprise by acting out of character.