Monday, April 4, 2016

Reflections on Conversations Past
 2nd in a series of posts

Do You Engage In Idolatry?

Recently, it was suggested that I was engaging in idolatry by posting a specific meme on a page that I administer. I was surprised by the suggestion, as the though had never occurred to me. When comments such as this one are made, I see it as an opportunity  to re-examine my own thoughts, to learn, and to grow. After spending time thinking through my own thoughts and beliefs, talking to others whose opinions I respect, reading scripture, and spending time in prayer, I am ready to share the experience. First, it would probably help to share the image that started it all. 

The person who was commenting felt that the image here consisted of idolatry, and wrote "Second Command do not worship or make any graven image". As I said, I was surprised by the comment, as I would never have considered this idolatry. However, I've also shared in the past that I have no formal training and have much to learn myself.

 I spent some time in prayerful meditation considering this. What makes this idolatry? Is it the figure of Jesus, as represented in crucifixes? If so, does this also mean that statuary with images of Christ, Mary, Joseph and the saints would constitute idolatry? I wondered what my Catholic family and friends would have to say about this? How would one even define idolatry?

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:  

Definition of idolatry

plural idol·a·tries

the worship of a physical object as a god

Merriam-Webster doesn't say that this only relates to items with an actual figure of a person. So, with that definition leading me, I began to wonder where the actual line in the sand is. Couldn't one argue that a cross, a fish symbol, or even a candle could be considered idolatry? Oh my, this could be a never ending list. This is how my mind works, if some images are idolatry and others are not I want to understand the distinction. 

Now I knew what my thoughts were, it was time to discuss this with others. I spoke to several of my Catholic friends, family and colleagues, and to be fair I also discussed it with several Protestant friends, family and colleagues

Without exception, and without any convincing on my part, they all shared the same opinion. 
The image shared in the meme is only idolatry if one actually worships the image, views the image itself as a god. Our world is full of symbols with meaning, this is one of them. None of the people I know worship this symbol, none pray to the crucifix. It is a reminder, a symbol. The crucifix in some churches, the elaborate crosses in others, or the plain wooden crosses in still other churches, all serve as reminders that God so loved the world that He came down in the form of Jesus, His only son. He lived as man, faced and conquered temptation, died on the cross to pay the price for our sins. Well, you know the rest of the story. It is the story of our salvation.

The symbols used by many churches were, and are, often teaching tools. In the early years of the church many people could not read. Hymns, and cantors, were a means of telling the story of Jesus. It was easier to learn the gospel by singing it in familiar hymns, and by repetition. In a similar manner, paintings, carvings, statues helped people to learn and remember the gospels. Even today, when many of us can, and do, read the bible, how can one look at a statue of the crucifixion and not feel deeply moved. How can one look at a statue of Mary cradling the broken body of her son, Jesus, and not feel a surge of compassion for the great sacrifice she also made?

Idolatry does still exist in the world, and it is a sin. It exists in the worship of celebrities, in the worship of money, and in many other areas of our lives. It could also be in religious symbols, for those who don't understand that it is not the symbol itself that is worthy of worship. I pray those cases are rare, and that those people find charitable Christians ready to teach them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Reflections on Conversations Past
1st in a series of posts.

Have you "found Jesus"?

Have you ever heard anyone say "I've found Jesus"? Have you ever said it yourself? Many people, when they return to the church, or to spiritual life say it. Even people who had never lead a religious life, and then had a conversion experience say it. I've said it myself.

Recently, after a move, I've been hearing this statement a lot. It has caused me to reflect on a conversation I had with a friend several years ago. He was talking about a family member who had grown up going to church, and was raised in a family of faith. In young adulthood this family member had left the church, and more importantly had ignored his relationship with God. 

Let's face it, this isn't an uncommon story. Our society is full of temptations and distractions. We place a high value on being popular, on living the good life as depicted by our entertainment industry, our commercialism, our merchandising. Being popular, according to magazine and t.v. ads, movies and television shows, awards shows and music industry seems to require that we wear designer clothes, buy fancy cars, seek a materialistic lifestyle, and attend all the right parties. There are even some instances where drinking and doing drugs is made to seem glamorous. We are human, we all want to be liked, to be loved, it is not so hard to understand the temptation. This, of course, is an oversimplification of societal issues, and their impact on our spiritual and moral compass. I don't propose to solve the great questions of our society, only to express some of my own thoughts and views.

Anyway, back to this family member. For ease of storytelling, I want to give him a name (certainly not his own), so I will call him Jacob. So Jacob, later in life, started to realize that he was not a happy man. All of his pursuit of "fun", all of his possessions, and he was not happy. As he began to reevaluate his life, he came to realize that what he was missing, what he really needed, was God. He returned to church, he began opening his heart to God. He repented, on bended knee. Jacob sought to restore his relationship with God, he started actively learning what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Jacob started changing his life. Of course, we know it was God who was changing Jacobs life, but God gave each of us the gift of free will and Jacob had to be willing to make the changes.

Today, Jacob is a different man. Through the help of Jesus, Jacob has restored broken relationships with people he loves. He is meeting new people who share his love for Christ. He is living a life of faith. He is continuing to work on becoming a good and faithful servant. Jacob told my friend that his life has completely changed since he "found Jesus". 

I am so happy that Jacob "found Jesus", I am happy whenever anyone "finds Jesus". Jesus will continue to change our lives, He will be with us every moment of every day, He is our salvation.
John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Every time I recall this conversation, I remember something else my friend said. He smiled with genuine joy that Jacob had "found Jesus" but he was also smiling with amusement. After telling me Jacob's story, my friend told me why he was so amused. He said, "I'm glad he found Jesus, but I didn't know Jesus was lost." 
I had never thought of it that way, but he was right. Jesus is not, nor has He ever been, lost. We are the lost ones when we stray away. He is always there, patiently and lovingly waiting for us to return. He is calling to us, can you hear Him? Sure, it may not be a call like we hear from each other, but He is calling out to us when we stray. I will never again say "I found Jesus". Rather, I will say "I was lost and Jesus found me, He called me back from the dark."

Matthew 18:12 "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?




Tuesday, August 19, 2014


If You Are Going To Pray, 

Be Prepared For HIS Answer!!


Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless when facing them.                                             Rabindranath Tagore


 The Importance Of Prayer

 Prayer is essential to Christian life. We pray for strength, for help, for forgiveness, we are quick to turn to God in times of trouble. Sometimes our prayers are to complain and ask to be delivered from our troubles, sometimes they are self-centered as we pray for gains. We pray to give thanks, to seek guidance, to ask what path we are to take. Hopefully, in prayer we reaffirm our dedication to God, our total and complete willingness to follow Jesus, our desire to serve.

Then we come to the really hard part.......We Must Listen............we must wait patiently, wait for God to answer in His time. AND we must also understand that His answer may not be the answer we were hoping for, we were counting on, we were so sure we would get.


The problem with prayer, with declaring that you will follow wherever He leads you, is that He may lead you in a direction in which you do not immediately wish to go.
Then what? You have a dilemma. Do you use your free will to go in the direction you wish to go, even though you are certain He is leading you elsewhere? Do you wait an inordinate amount of time debating which you will do, paralyzed by indecision, until both the path to the opportunity He was leading you to and the one you preferred are closed, and now you are left with neither? OR do you take a deep breath, offer up a prayer saying "Heavenly Father, I hear You. You know that in my heart this is not the path I wanted, You know my fears and anxiety, but I trust in You. Thank you for the blessings You continue to bestow on me. I know that You have a purpose for sending me down this path and I will follow wherever You lead.

My Own Prayers For Guidance, and God's Answers 

Over the course of the past two and a half years my career has involved moving quite often. Make no mistake, I did pick this career path. Truthfully, I picked with very little prayer at all. I was eager to make some changes in my life, and this career choice definitely involved change.....lot's of change, and often.

My first assignment was at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, NY. At that time I did not pray so often, and I selected this job on my own. It was far enough from home to be a fresh start in life, but close enough for an easy drive home to visit on days off if I wanted. I loved St. Peter's. I loved the place, loved my co-workers, it was an awesome experience and I stayed there a year. If St. Peter's had not been such a good experience, my career as a travel nurse may have ended right then and there. There are staff and patients there who made a lasting impact on my life. I miss my friends at St. Peter's Hospital, and would gladly work with them again.

 In this position, I am faced with a possible move every three to six months. I do have some choices to make each time, I do have some say over where I will, or will not, go. With each impending move I start to pray, A LOT. I seek guidance from Him, and I try very hard to listen attentively. As I pray, I tell Him that I want to serve, that I want to go where He leads me, and I also pray about what I think I need from the upcoming job.

In the late summer of 2013 I was praying for His guidance, I would go wherever He sent me. After a misstep, when I thought the right job had come along and then it feel through, I asked that He make it crystal clear what He wanted me to do. I did have needs, besides a need to serve, I needed a job that would pay enough to prevent me from going further into debt. I asked for one that would allow me to start to catch up from some time I had had to take off. Along came Calvary Hospital, in the Bronx, with a job offer. I had not interviewed with Calvary, and they were offering a rate above my stated minimum. Calvary Hospital is a very special place. The hospital provides palliative care to cancer patients, a whole hospital dedicated to giving excellent care to end of life cancer patients. Offering patients and their families comfort, compassion, dignity, and excellent nursing and medical care. I did not want to go there. I had never cared for cancer patients, not beyond the occasional cancer patient on a medical/surgical floor that is. I had never worked in palliative care either. AND my mother had been diagnosed with stage III inoperable lung cancer. I really did not want to go, but I did.

In the spring of 2014, as I was preparing to leave Calvary Hospital, I prayed for a job closer to home. I sensed that moms health was going to get worse, and quickly. I wanted to be close to home, I wanted to spend more time with mom. My only prayers were: Please God, get me closer to home. Get me as close to home as possible. The rest of my prayers during that time were focused on comfort and peace for mom, strength for mom and family and friends as we faced whatever was to come together. Along came Glens Falls Hospital, in Glens Falls NY. In the time I had been working for my agency, they had never had a med/surg job posted for Glens Falls Hospital. It was a 45 minute drive from my moms home. There was no way I was going to get a job any closer to home. It was clearly a blessing from God, an answered prayer!! I did not want to go. It was a day shift position, I had not worked day shift in a long time. What if I couldn't keep up with the pace? It was also float pool, I didn't want to do float pool. Never knowing what floor you were going to be on, what if I wasn't up to the challenge? I really did not want to go, but I did.

Towards the end of my assignment at Glens Falls I started praying again. I want to go where you send me God. I want to serve. But I also am further in debt again and would like to catch up. My health is feeling the impact of little or no sleep, stress and worry. I need to get back on track so I can be there for my patients and my family. I feel so weak and drained right now, please help me. Please guide me. Along came Mayo Clinic Health System - Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, WI. It's not anywhere I had ever considered going. My agency contacted me, knowing I needed more pay, and asked if I would be interested in going to Wisconsin. It seemed that I would be able to get my license quickly and the job paid much better than any of the others that were currently posted that I was qualified for. I am smart in some areas, geography is not one of them, I had to look at a map to see where Wisconsin was. It was God directing me again. I did not want to go. Mom had died just over a month prior. I did not want to leave family and friends so soon after. I did not want to go somewhere so far, knowing I would not be able to come home for a visit, but I did. 

How Gracefully Did I REALLY Follow When HE Lead Me Where I Did Not Want To Go??

I see no point in being anything but honest. That I went kicking and screaming is what comes to mind. Clearly, He was not physically dragging me, and I was not physically kicking and screaming.....but I was complaining......lots!!

The entire time I was preparing to go to NYC, for my assignment at Calvary Hospital, I complained. I admitted I felt I was being called there. I admitted that it was actually the only option I had at the time, but I told my entire family that I didn't want to go............repeatedly! I told them I didn't want to work somewhere where they did palliative care oncology. I hadn't done either before, maybe I wouldn't be any good at it. Plus, I felt it would be too hard emotionally considering moms diagnosis.

As soon as I met the staff, and saw the interactions between the staff and the patients, I started to think this is a wonderful place and I am blessed to be here. I became excited to learn the routines and protocols for the hospital, I was eager to do a good job, to provide the best care I possibly could for each and every one of my patients. And then the inevitable happened, there was a night when two patients died, and then another night when three died. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I held it together at work, but when I went home I could not sleep. I could only sob. Through prayer, and through counsel with my Reverend at home, I was able to develop ways to cope with the loss. I still felt it deeply, but I was no longer incapacitated by it. In the end, I LOVED my time at Calvary Hospital. I learned so much, as a nurse, and as a Christian. I was deeply touched by patients, their families, and by staff. I don't know if I made any lasting impact on their lives, but they certainly did on mine!! I miss my friends at Calvary, and would gladly work with them again.
So, the move to Glens Falls Hospital went smoother.....right? After all, I was getting a job close to home, the only thing I had asked for. Wrong..............more complaining. I complained about working day shift. I have severe allergies, some foods I have a reaction to just being around them. I complained about the increased risk of reactions working days. I fretted over keeping up with the pace, as I had been working nights for quite some time. I fretted and complained about being in the float pool, and there were other complaints as well. In the end, I floated to the T3, the oncology floor, a couple of times and loved it, I also floated to the renal floor a couple of times. The rest of the time I was on T6, the cardiology floor, and 3E the Rehab floor. Both were busy floors, in much different ways, and I loved both. The staff on both floors were great to work with, and staff on both floors exemplified team work. On the rehab floor, the doctor, mid levels, nurse and therapists all worked closely together to maximize patient outcomes. The Scheduler and staff in the staffing office were pleasant and easy to work with. Nursing leadership was supportive and available. I loved my time at Glens Falls Hospital. Again, there are staff and patients there who made a lasting impact on my life. Again, I miss my friends at Glens Falls Hospital, and would gladly work with them again.

Then there was my move to WI..........yep, I complained. Working for Mayo was going to be a great opportunity, so what's to complain about?  Well, mostly that I didn't want to be so far from family after the emotional upheaval of moms death. Honestly, if I could have, I would have convinced family members who have moved away from home to move back. I felt the need to be surrounded by family, to try to keep everyone I love safe, and healthy and well. As if that is even within my power. I know now, and knew then, that the very best thing I could do for them is/was to pray and to have faith that God would be with each and every one of them. I cannot explain my irrational need to have them all close, but feelings cannot always be explained. Know what? I have met some great people here! Staff I really like, patients who have touched me deeply, and people outside of the hospital too. 

Notice The Theme?

I pray for guidance and direction. God answers my prayer. I go, but complaining all the way. Once there (wherever He has lead me), it turns out to be a great experience that changes my life or my perspective for the better. I end up loving the people I am working with, and the place I am working. Each time I have experiences that make me feel closer to Him. Repeat............

What Will I Pray For Now?

I will still pray for guidance as to where I should go next. I anticipate that someday He will lead me home to a place where I will settle, but that will be in his time. I will pray for Him to watch over my family and friends, and keep them safe, healthy and happy. I will pray to be of service. I will pray for jobs that will help me to resolve financial affairs. And now I will pray to have the strength to face fears and anxiety about new jobs and locations without all of the complaining.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

What Does Mission Mean to You? How Are You Being Called?

The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become. --Henry Martyn, missionary to India and Persia.

He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. --Jim Elliot, missionary martyr who lost his life trying to reach the Auca Indians of Ecuador.

I do not know how it is with those of you who have lived your whole lives following Christ, since you were youngsters at your parents knees. For me, finally ready to follow Christ in my adulthood, I made the conscious choice with great joy and much jubilation. I was so eager to find ways to serve, was so eager to share the good news, and yet so unprepared!!!

I knew little of scripture, knew little of anything actually. I had so much to learn, and I still do. In fact, it has become clear to me that I can spend the rest of my life learning and growing in Christ and I will still have so much more to learn!!

The word mission, in my youth and young adulthood, would have only evoked thoughts of secret agents, mystery, intrigue, excitement and danger. I would have envisioned being the female version of 007 James Bond, or maybe of Simon Templar, The Saint. In reality, I would have been much more likely to be like the goofy, accident prone, Maxwell Smart who was only able to accomplish the goals of his mission through luckily stumbling into positive outcomes.

As I began to open my heart and mind to Jesus, I began to think about completely different types of mission. I wanted to go out into the world and serve, to share Gods word, to find a way to help others. Aren't we suppose to help others, aren't we suppose to share the love of God, certainly I had to do something. I sought out different ways to do this. I found many things that I just wasn't suited to. Serving on committees just isn't me. I get frustrated when it takes too long to get things done, I don't like endlessly discussion to decide the simplest of matters. I know this isn't always the way it is, but sometimes it is, and that is too much for me. I always want to say "Let's make a decision and get it done!" and if others won't, then I will. I tend to take on too much because I just want to "get it done"!

Along the way, I found I am much happier and better suited to being in a more active role. I enjoy, and am good at, serving at meals. I was happy volunteering for Habitat for Humanity with a church group. I am happy lifting, and carrying and setting up for meetings, events, dinners. I am also happy when I can discuss God with others, when I can hear about their journey or tell them about mine, when we can read and study scripture together, and form relationships. I am always looking for new opportunities, to find ways that the gifts He gave me can be used. I am always asking Him to guide me to whatever it is He wishes for me to do.

Next week, I am going on a mission trip with a group from home. I believe I am being called to this, only time will tell. I have prayed about it often, and I am very excited about the trip. When I return, I will share more details.

The thing is.....we are all called to mission, we are all disciples, we are all meant to go out into the world and share the word of God and the love of God. We are meant to do that, and so much more. It may be a mission trip, it may be working at a soup kitchen, it may be teaching Sunday School. The possibilities are endless. They can be in our church, in our neighborhood, in our town....well, you can see where this is going. It can be as close as our next door neighbor or as far as the most distant village on our planet. Talk to God about it, pray for guidance, pray for discernment, and then go out into the world!!! How can we, in good conscience, fail to share the good news, through word and deed. If we truly believe in His unconditional love, if we truly believe in His total forgiveness, if we truly believe in eternal life, then how can we not want to share that news?

Heavenly Father, please guide us and show us how we can carry Your word out into the world. Help us to know how best we can serve You, how we can use our God given gifts to bring all glory to God. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Post 6 in 7 days, taking a new direction today.....

Today has been a day of rest for me! I have been exhausted, and it finally caught up with me. Since I am fully committed to the 7 posts in 7 days, but was at a loss to find energy today, my daughter suggested that my post could be a quote. As I looked at a great many possibilities to quote people of great faith, and of great knowledge, I seemed incapable of even choosing who to quote.

I am guessing I am not the only one who has ever had a day of indecision. Nor am I the only one who has ever had a day where creativity seemed blocked. In the end, I have chosen to share a poem. It is a little rhymey, but you never know what is going to speak to your heart on a given day. Some days it is great music, great literature, great quotes......and sometimes it is just a rhymey little poem. I hope that it speaks to a few of you as well. In the meantime, wishing you all many blessings from God.

No Greater Love

Redemption comes through Him alone

No greater love have we ever known

He died on the cross to save us from our sins

Three days later He rose again

 He taught us all how we should live

Through faith and love, our lives we give

When, in the end, we are called home

We bow before Him on His throne

When we are given passage through Heavens door

We will live in joy, peace and love forever more


Friday, February 28, 2014

What Happens When You Figure Out Gods Plan?

Have you ever realized that you have figured out God's plan for you? Maybe not the blueprint for you entire life, but the path for the immediate future with regards to a specific area. For instance your career path, or a plan for mission work, or your personal life and relationship?

I have, many times. I am not talking about the dreams I had regarding my blog, the experiences that I had that were totally unlike anything else I had ever experienced. I'm talking about the times when I felt so strongly about someone or something, when I wanted something so badly that I couldn't see how anything could get in the way of me and my desired goal.

These times, hopefully all in my past, these are the times when I have decided that I must have figured out Gods plan. It is easy to rationalize, easy to visualize the plan and the outcomes. Easy to say that "I wouldn't want this job so bad, feel so strongly and desperately that I MUST have this job, unless God intended for me to have it. God must be calling me to this, otherwise why would He let me want it sooooo much?"

Yes, sadly, this has also been a thought process I have followed with regards to relationships. I have had times when I "figured out" the reason why God put friends into my life. They were going through a particularly painful time that was similar to one of my life experiences, or they needed a friend who could support and encourage them. In some cases, I have made lifelong friends. In others I responded to the fact that the new "friend" desperately needed someone to listen, help or support them and only realized much later that the relationship was not really a friendship at all. Or at least by my definition, as the relationships were so one sided, but it would take me a very long time of being emotionally drained before I would realize this.

In another instance I feel head over heals in love, the first and really only time in my life. He was the perfect, I didn't really believe he was perfect at all. What I did believe is that he was the perfect man for me. We went through a series of roadblocks and speed bumps, and each time I felt so incapable of letting go. I felt so emotionally connected, so madly, desperately, completely in love. With each problem along the way the depth of my feelings for him were unchanged, I was convinced that this was a sign that God intended for us to be together. There were other things I took as signs of this. A call that came through on my cell phone when I was in a location where I had no cell signal, a time when I prayed "if I am suppose to hang on, and we are suppose to be together, please do ......(don't remember specifically what) give me a sign that it is meant to be. In the end, I had to face some very hard truths. Things did not work out between us, he made choices that lead him in a different direction. I have accepted that, and yet there will always be some kind of connection between us.

These instances were all before my baptism, before I declared my intention to follow Jesus. The times when I "knew" what God's plan was were some of the hardest lessons on my faith journey. Clearly I was choosing to believe what I wanted to, or needed to, and then finding ways to "prove" it was what God wanted. As a species, we are so skilled at building a case for believing we are justified in having our own way.

Also worth mentioning, even if God did intend for someone to be "our destiny", he also gives us the gift of free will. It is important for us to remember others can choose to accept that destiny, or choose to follow a different path.

After many mistakes, I now know this.......I will follow where God leads me. I will be prayerful, and will try not to fall into the trap of guessing what His plan is. I will accept that free will allows people to follow, or not follow, Gods plan for them, and if their choice leads them away from me.......well, I will have faith that God has something different planned for me.

Trust in Gods plan for your life, don't try to second guess it. Live in the moment and listen for His message!!

Heavenly Father, please help us to listen for Your message. Help us to live in the moment, without dwelling on the past or guessing at the future. Thank You for Your wisdom, for Your grace, and for Your unconditional love. Thank You for the opportunities You give us to share Your love with others. Thank You for knowing our needs, and the concerns of our hearts, even when we do not have the words to adequately express them. Amen

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Being called to Calvary, being called to a new understanding.

1 Peter 4:10-11

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies - in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

I was called to Calvary, as surely as I was called to write my blog, for a multitude of reasons that I have still not fully understood. During my time here, my understanding has been slowly evolving. Little by little, I become aware of a new lesson learned, a new level of perception, and yet I am forced to acknowledge that I will never fully understand God's plan. This is hard for me, as I am a person who likes to analyze, and over analyze, everything. I like to know the why behind things, and I like to know the plan from beginning to end.

My job at Calvary Hospital came at the end of the months of unemployment spent home in Vermont, it is seeming to me like so many of my blogs, so many of my experiences on my faith journey, relate back to that period of time in some way. Which says to me that I am still learning how important that time was, it was a time to focus on faith, growing in my relationship with Christ, learning, and evolving, as well as being an important time with my family. I think I could easily write a dozen posts about what I learned during that time, but that is not my focus for this, back to the point!!

Calvary Hospital is different from any hospital I have ever experienced. The focus of Calvary Hospital is palliative care for end of life cancer patients. The hospital has an excellent reputation, and does a very good job within their specialty. I have never done palliative care or hospice care before, and was surprised that this job was offered to me with none of the usual interview process. There were a whole series of events surrounding this job offer that made me feel very sure that God was calling me to come here, although I could not fathom the reasons.

Initially, I struggled with the different mindset, and skill set, that was required for the day to day needs of palliative care nursing. Soon I was struggling with much more!! I have dealt with death and dying throughout my nursing career, every nurse had, but I was not prepared for the emotional implications of knowing that all of my patients were approaching their final days. Nor was I prepared for the impact of caring for end of life cancer patients when someone very close to me was actively battling cancer. It was evident, early on, that Calvary did an excellent job of managing the needs of their patients, and that their patients comfort was the priority. And yet....I took every death personally, I was use to doing everything possible to save patients, to extend life.

While they were infrequent, there were nights when we would have two patients on our floor pass, and on one occasion there were three in one night. I would find myself coming home from work and sobbing, or on occasion I would find tears streaking down my cheeks when I left the floor for my break. I frequently sent tearful and emotional messages to my Pastor back home in Vermont. I would say that God bestowed many gifts on that man, and that he probably had to draw on many of them during this time frame to help me through this emotionally charged period of my life!!

My Pastor came up with an excellent suggestion to help me deal with the emotional and spiritual drain I experienced with so much loss. He suggested that I have a private ceremony to say my goodbyes, to release the pain I was experiencing, to let go. He expressed it so much more clearly, he was more eloquent in his words, but this expresses the essence of what I took away from the conversation. He also suggested possibly incorporating elements of fire, air, water.

Since I was lucky enough to have an apartment on the water, I decided that the beach would be the perfect place for my ceremony. Every Sunday I would walk on the beach, say a prayer for patients who had passed on, and then I would throw a flower out onto the water for each patient who had passed that week, speaking each of their names as I threw a flower. The calm, the sense of peace, the relief that this simple ceremony brought was amazing!!!

After a period of a couple of months I had gradually become aware of my changing perception that these patients were going home, were being embraced and welcomed by God, and were beyond any suffering. I started to see their passing as their ultimate reward, I began to wonder why it had taken me so long to understand this. While I still would shed a few tears at their passing, there were times when I would have been very pressed to determine if they were tears of sorrow, joy or relief. I decided I no longer needed to have my ceremonies. I had finally come to a point of being able to care for patients as they passed without feeling such a personal drain.

What a mistake that was!! After a couple of weeks I noticed I was feeling down, was unhappy, something just wasn't right. I couldn't figure it out. I examined my feelings closely, and I was sure that it wasn't the passing of my patients that was making me feel this way. It took me a while to realize that, towards the end of my weekly ceremonies, my prayers had slowly started evolving. My prayers had become less about my patients and more about praying for God to provide their families with comfort, strength and peace as they dealt with the death of their loved ones. You see, in this setting, the families also become our patients. I immediately resumed my ceremonies, this time with the families as my focus, and the relief was instant!!

I suspect God brought me here for many reasons, the list of lessons and growth is long, but I suspect that very lesson is one of the most important ones. That grief is more about those of us left behind, missing our loved ones, wondering about the unknown, addressing our own faith and mortality, than it is about the ones who have passed. I also suspect I should have known this all along, I experienced a lot of loss at a relatively young age, but some of us learn more slowly. Maybe, just maybe, He knew I wouldn't start learning and understanding until I experienced a larger volume of loss in a short period of time.

Revelation 21:4

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.