Sacred Grief: Shabbat Shalom

Leningrad_Codex_Carpet_page_eThe power is out! I am sharing something I wrote in November 2010. I think it speaks to the spiritual practice of grief work and for preparing for difficult seasons of life. I am going to let it stand as a piece and not edit it on my phone! I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my past.

Often we think of Sabbath as Sunday. In fact, traditionally, Sunday is the Day of the Lord and sundown Friday to sundown Saturday remains the Sabbath time. Recently I went to Shabbat service at Kol Ami to experience the beginning of Sabbath, a dedicated time of reflecting on giving our lives and all there is to God. Going to a Jewish service is a little unnerving as it is generally in Hebrew, however, the Siddur (what would be like a hymnal) is written in Hebrew and English. It also has the transliteration so you can follow along. Whew! That allowed me to sort of keep up.

When I entered the Narthex to join Kol Ami during Shabbat, I was a little nervous. After all, I know what we think when new people come and visit us! Often it is “Hooray!” How odd would it be to become the new person again? And how odd is it to become the new person within a building that I know so well? When I entered, Rabbi Glickman almost recognized me. I said hello and put myself into context for him. He introduced me to a lovely couple in the congregation. I got there just in time to hear their tales of recent loss to Rabbi Glickman. My heart tugged because I know those tales of loss. It has been an entire year devoted to loss for me and to the dangerous work of going through this liminal time in my life. Late last summer we had to put down Sarah, our dog of fourteen years. In October I finally did some very heavy grief work for my mother. In February, a good friend at school died. And not only did he die, but I was the one who had to break the news to my school community. I presided over his memorial service. And then, the capper for me was the loss of my brother in May. Oy vey! And then there have been smaller losses since then. But these were the big boulders for me. The interesting thing that I learned was that each time a smaller loss, it taps into that bigger well of grief that has built up. So even a smaller thing like the ROTC soldier at Seattle U who was killed in Iraq recently, brings up the bigger grief and you have to deal with it again. Then I met Maria and her husband.

Maria shared with me at the Shabbos service recent news they have had of a close friend dying. And this was layered on top of huge challenges they have had over the last year. They are an older couple and have had to face challenging health situations that seem to be coming at them in waves. On top of that, they lost their grandson seven years ago. So these smaller challenges and griefs are tapping into that huge loss in their life. I was so very aware that even though there were many differences between us (religion, culture, age), that coming together in our grief to share the loss together on Shabbat as we recite the Kaddish together was an amazing experiment. Kaddish is recited for all who grieve and is an amazing response of faith. In the deepest grief, the responsive prayer is one of praise to God. It is:

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for u and for all Israel; and say, Amen. He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

I am also reminded of all the hurts that can come to us during this upcoming Advent and Christmas season. For children of alcoholic parents, for recovering addicts, for people undergoing the birth of a new way of having family, for those suddenly without family, for those who are alone, even for those of us who very much need to watch our food intake—it can be challenging at best and a minefield at worst. I think my wish for advent, for this time of growth, is that we all can embrace change and loss where we need to knowing that it is gestating into something new that may bring forth a beautiful new life. And in this time of gestation, that we may claim together, the magnificence and glory of our creator who creates peace for us all.

Love,
Terri

© 2013, post , Terri Stewart, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ Leningrad Codex cover. This is from a very old mauscript of the Hebrew bible. A former possession of Karaïte Jews written circa 1010 C.E. The photograph by Shmuel ben Ya’akov is in the United States public domain.

WP_20131026_034REV. TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual. (The 2014 issue just released!)

Her online presence is Cloaked Monk. This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com

I Consider Myself

soldier-silhouette-at-sunsetI consider myself to be
a peaceful person
living in a place
not fraught with war
void of detonating bombs
fragments of life gone

I consider myself but
to no avail
for the rumbling of war
has never been far
as off in the distance
on foreign soils
it creeps very close
to my own back door

I considered myself to be
living my life apart
even during Viet Nam years
seen on broadcast news
of death and others tears
of something I was
unable to touch

I considered myself & then
my son joined in the ranks
of men and women called
to fight in a war fueled
by the inner turmoil
of a people distant
and out of sight

I considered myself to be
untouched by the carnage
the destruction of
people unknown to me
whose lives were
never mentioned

I considered myself & then
you came home & you
seemed different
for you brought the
memories with you
that now touch my life
to forever affect it
with war

I have known many who became soldiers. My own father and his brothers fought in World War II, my brother was in service during Viet Nam but did not see battle. But when my own son went to the Middle East, even though he was fortunate enough not to have had to be in a battle, he saw enough of the aftermath, that it has affected his life in ways I will never be able to understand.  For most soldiers do not speak of what they have seen and heard but these things, I know, cannot be erased from memory.

– Renee Espiru

© 2013, poem, Renee Espiru, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Karen Arnold, Public Domain Pictures.net

c796b9e96120fdf0ce6f8637fa73483cRENEE ESPRIU ~ is a creative prose writer and poet. She began delighting us with her work at Turtle Flight, My Muse & Angels in March 2011. The work she shares with us there includes short stories. Renee is a daughter, mother, grandmother, and seeker of spiritual peace and soul-filled freedom. She’s studied at the graduate level and has attended seminary. She describes her belief system as eclectic, encompassing many faiths. She believes “Nature is the basis of everything that is and everything that is also a part of Nature.”

PERSPECTIVES IN CANCER #16: Parvathy

PARVATHY

by

Jamie Dedes

You are the one I most hoped would make it

You of the vibrant colors, the valiant heart

You young with laughter, wise in sadness

Winging your way past the river of forgetfulness

Several years ago a brave and kind man started a local group for those of us with life threatening illness and our caretakers. Through it, it has been an honor and a privilege to meet people who remain heroic and funny and compassionate in the face of life’s great mystery, death.  We want the same things: more life, less pain, less fear. We fear the same things:  the unknown, will it hurt, will I feel cold and lonely, is there something, is there nothing, will I loose my “I”. We suffer remorse for the loss of ourselves and the time we won’t get. We wonder if in the end anyone will remember us. We fear separation from the people we love and of not being able to finish our work. We fear for our children and grandchildren if we are not here. Quite a number in our group have gone into remission or otherwise improved and moved on. Others we have lost to ALS . . . old age . . .Now we have lost Parvathy, the youngest, I believe, to cancer.  I don’t think she made it to thirty-five.

This summer before Parvathy died, I spent a day with her at Filoli Gardens.  The flowers were stunning, but dull beside the glow of Parvathy’s inner grace and enjoyment of the day and its wonders, which are many at Filoli.  We talked of life and of hopes for the future.  She still hoped for a healthy resolution and a future that would include a child with her new, young husband. She had pursued a successful professional career, and there were things she wished to accomplish. We got tea in the cafe and then sat in the gardens to drink it.  We were good company, I think, despite differences in age, culture, and education. We did have a bond, after all.  It is a bond all humans share, but not all of us face up to or are confronted with in the context of terminal illness.

For many of us, death comes slowly.  First we give up a bit of our hearing, then a bit of our sight, then more than a little of our agility, height, and memory. Eventually, we heave a sigh and off we go, shedding the fleshy capsule.  We have time to do things, to say good-bye slowly, to savor, to say to ourselves and others, “Hey, it was a great ride. No regrets.”  Parvathy didn’t have time. It was all much too fast and much too painful.  Her life had its high moments, certainly. She told me about some of them. But she did grow up in a war torn country.  She lost a brother to war.  She suffered from a terrible illness.  She struggled with anger and remorse over these experiences.  She tried to understand them and to understand a God who would do this to her and her family.  In the end, she may have decided that her life had been good. I hope she did. I hope she could focus on the joys and find some peace. I wasn’t there.  I don’t know. I just wished for her nothing less than what she wished for herself: a long life and less painful one.

© Jamie Dedes 2008-2011, all rights reserved

May your soul find peace, our dear, beautiful Parvathy. You are not and will not be forgotten. The warmth of your spirit lives on in our hearts.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Jamie Dedes ~ Jamie is a former freelance feature writer and columnist whose topic specialties were employment, vocational training, and business. She finds the blessing of medical retirement to be more time to indulge in her poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. She has two novels in progress, one in final edits, and is pulling together a poetry collection. Her primary playground is Musing by Moonlight. She is the founder and editor/administrator of Into the Bardo. Jamie’s mother was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six. She went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer.

AUTUMN LEAF

LITTLE AUTUMN LEAF

by

Jamie Dedes

In memory of Mary Kate.

You floated into our lives

an autumn leaf edged in gold,

a tiny froth of smile and grumble,

a lifetime of grit and grizzle.

A mind over-larded and lost

in the never-land of ninety years.

Yours such a small body, such pain.

So bravely, autumn leaf, you chose

the wind on which to float away,

leaving us to the emptiness of your

gray chair and our wistful hearts.

Photo credit – Petr Kratochvil, Public Domain Pictures.net.