Yesterday was the first time I have been with someone right before they died. My friend was on life support following an aortic aneurism. He was hooked up to many machines, there were wires coming from the top of his head, a tube with blood coming out of his nose, in his mouth was a ventilator. There were monitors and IV drip bags and a dialysis machine. The nurse told me I could touch his hand if I wanted. I tried to touch it but only encountered a bubble wrapped body under the blanket. After the nine-hour surgery he was wrapped in a plastic air chamber as they left the incision open incase they needed to get to any organs quickly. It was a lot to take in, but at the same time, there was my friend. I have a history of becoming faint in these settings but somehow the compelling nature of saying goodbye to my friend took over and I could look at his face and offer words of love and hope for eternity. His body had been through some very rough hours and it showed on his face. In the next few hours he would be evaluated for possible organ donation and life support would be stopped. It all happened so fast, all of us so stunned with the untimely end of a life. It was the end of his bodily life and at times like these we realize that none of us knows how many days we have in this body. I reflected on Christ’s words to us at the last supper, “This is my body given for you”. He gave us his body, in his life and in his death. We each have a body to “give”. I thought of times when I have been stingy with the giving of my body. It made me regret not being more giving. I also thought of those who give away too much of their body. The sacred nature of our bodies became real. Our bodies, our mortal lives are a gift to be given to others. How often have we violated the sacred gift? How much pain do we cause in relationships when we do not give ourselves to each other in a sacred way. Living in community and commitments are all sacred ways that we give ourselves to each other. Christ took on flesh and gave his body away to us out of his great love for all. I pray that my one life in this body will find me “giving” away this body to others, remembering the sacred gift we are to each other.
Otters float together, holding hands, forming “a raft” so that they can rest. At times when I feel adrift in life I can reach out to others and hold hands. Am I reaching out, am I asking for help, am I willing to be seen and known? The otters remind me how important it is for me to live in community with others. When I am seen and known by others, I am in “a raft”, and can receive God’s care from those I am willing to hold hands with. Being held by God and others allows me to rest.
Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another
and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
It is only when we have claimed our own place in God’s love
that we can experience
this all embracing
and feel safe
not only with God
but also with all our brothers and sisters.
Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen
As I learn to call myself “the Beloved” I am beginning to claim my place in God’s love. I have come to understand that God loves me and desires to be in an intimate relationship with me. He accepts me, with all my flaws and neediness. He sees me as his bride and commits himself to me. It is my desire to respond to him emotionally, not just to know his love for me but to feel it. I look forward to more of this great romance. Praise be to God!
Reflection Questions to consider:
- Think of situations that disrupt your peace. Name a few.
- What do you do right now to calm yourself? What is your tether?
- Have you turned to the Holy Spirit or God to be your tether, if so, what was that like? What comes to mind when you look at the picture of the otter wrapped in kelp?
- Do you easily ask others for help during challenging times?
- Do you have someone you could “hold hands with’?
- What comes to mind when you look at the otters holding hands?
Have you ever noticed a sea otter wrapped in kelp and wondered why? Apparently they wrap themselves in kelp so they won’t be dragged out to sea with the tide while they rest. The kelp is strongly rooted on the ocean floor and will hold them safely. As I observe the otter resting peacefully I realize I feel adrift in my life as I am in a time of transition. I find it hard to rest not knowing what the future holds.
What is holding me safely so I can rest?
What is holding me in the safe harbor
keeping me from being dragged out to sea?
During the times when I feel adrift in life and need to rest, it is the Holy Spirit who is my kelp, my tether. The Holy Spirit holds me in God’s tender care so that I can rest. I only need to seek out the spirit and roll myself up in the spirit’s faithful embrace. I can now rest knowing I am in the Father’s care.
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 New International Version (NIV)
I will sing my song
Like the birds sing theirs
The song the Lord has given me
A song which is mine alone to sing
It is a song of praise
A song of gratitude
For His great love for me
His little bird.
Listen: there was once a King sitting on his throne. Around him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the King with great honour. Then it pleased the King to raise a small feather from the ground and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I a feather on the breath of God.
Hildegard of Bingen
I am but a feather
Floating on the breath of God
Though the light of day
And the darkness of night
Through hope and despair
Through fear and calm
Through joy and hope
As I see the horizon in the distance
A sense of perspective
Being in the moment
Touching others on their journey
Knowing others have floated
On His breath before me
And others will come after me
Floating on the breath of God
Trusting His breath will carry me
I just need to float
A show of tails and backs
Flips and leaps
Splashes like explosions
A whale the size of a city bus
Dances on the sea
What causes this whale to dance?
What momentum launches him from the sea?
If a whale can dance
so can I
Only He sees clearly
And His perspective is truth.
The ocean waves roll in
Their continuous patterns
Are a constant reminder
That there is one behind
These reliable gifts of nature
When the waves
Grow larger and more dangerous
Do I jump to my feet
Or do I trust in the one who
Has true perspective?
Let the waves roll in
Let me rest in the one
Who sees me clearly