Friday, August 21, 2009

Memorial to a Teacher

My CPE supervisor right from the beginning told us the residents of BV would be our teachers. CPE is now complete and I couldn't agree more. This is the story of a relationship with just one of them.

When I first met R, she was pretty well bed-ridden and on hospice care in her apartment in assisted living. I went to her room in response to a note from the associate chaplain that she was not doing well.

R didn’t speak much when we met as she was struggling with pain, but still managed a few words and looks of communication. Her eyes were bright clear blue and were warm in spite of the soreness she was experiencing. As one of her two daughters introduced me to her as one of the chaplains, she smiled in response and seemed glad to see me. The conversation we carried on was very limited due to the medications she was being given for pain. They made her sleepy and she would nod off.

She was remarkably warm and welcoming given the circumstances and her own suffering. When awake, on subsequent visits, she smiled as she recognized me. Her facial expressions and eyes did much of the speaking that her mouth was unable to do.

It was particularly her eyes that caught my attention. Many in my family have/ had similar blue eyes: my grandmother, mother, brother, daughter, son, and granddaughter. I could not help but think of my family, all of whom are gone except my children and granddaughter, during the times spent with R. The eyes—as I think of those blue eyes, I remember the song Peter Gabriel sang with these words:

In Your Eyes
love I get so lost, sometimes
days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
when I want to run away
I drive off in my car
but whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are

all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

(In your eyes)
the light the heat
(In your eyes)
I am complete
(In your eyes)
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
(In your eyes)
the resolution of all the fruitless searches
(In your eyes)
Oh, I see the light and the heat
in your eyes
oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light
the heat I see in your eyes

love, I don't like to see so much pain
so much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive

and all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

(In your eyes)
The light the heat
(In your eyes)
I am complete
(In your eyes)
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
(In your eyes)
the resolution of all the fruitless searches
(In your eyes)
Oh, I see the light and the heat
in your eyes
oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light,
the heat I see in your eyes
in your eyes in your eyes
in your eyes in your eyes
in your eyes in your eyes

http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/PrintLyrics?OpenForm&ParentUnid=C72AA6F1463B7C18482568E400061839.

Perhaps it helped me to sit with her and spend time with her because of my inability to do so when some of my loved ones were dying. I think it was therapeutic for all of us: R, her daughters, and myself. They each allowed me to share their pain as one who understands, having experienced loss myself. There were close friends who were able to sit with my mother when she was dying, when I could not. I wanted to accompany R in her hurting, be a companion to her in the same way I would have been to my own mother, had I been able to be there.

I don’t think it was a matter of trying to exorcise my own demons in taking this journey with R and her family. I wanted to minister to them, walk with them, and listen to them as Christ would have me do. I worked hard at not bringing along my own baggage.

Another song comes to mind about the role of being a non-anxious, non-verbal presence with others.



R taught me to listen beyond words to the heart and soul. She welcomed me into her home and into her life. I was invited to journey with her in her final days of life on this earth—to read to her, sing to her, pray with and for her, and to wait with those she loved as they maintained the bedside vigil.

flickr picture

4 comments:

Songbird said...

So glad to hear you had this powerful experience.

Jennifer said...

Gifts given and received.
What a lovely reflection.
Thank you!

Ivy said...

Thanks Songbird. CPE is an amazing thing and I thank God daily for how God has used that time to work in my life and make me more like Christ.

Ivy said...

Thank you Jennifer.