Today marks my one year anniversary as a bereavement counselor for Hospice. It has been a heart-expanding year; a year of daily karuna practice. Every day, I have been called to open hearted listening, just Being with someone, compassionately.
Inside the practice of karuna and active presence, the practice of managing chaos resides. How much of life is chaos and how much of life is predictable? A psychologist posed this question to me a few weeks ago and I've been asking it to others. Most people rate chaos quite high; some people go for a 60/40 split with predictability having an edge. That was my position too, but it was surprising when this doctor stated that only 5% was actually chaotic. Of that 5%, he asserted, 4% was merely irritating or annoying. The only real out of control chaos in life is about 1%.
Of course, in hospice work, we are helping people who are in that 1%. They are panicked, watching their loved one deteriorate, providing medical care they never imagined they would have to do. While many people prefer to die at home, the toll on their families is enormous. Wives, husbands, children, grandchildren and even family friends step up and gamely administer medications, change and clean the frail bodies, tempt them with tasty treats that can no longer be swallowed. And they are grieving in anticipation, not knowing when it will "end," and dimly recognizing that the end of life will not end the grief.
Daily, people ask me, "what can I do?" I smile gently and lean forward. Just BE, I answer. Sit with him and tell him you love him, or don't even say it out loud. Hold her hand and sing quietly. Open your heart and just BE with your loved one, as calmly as you can, pulsing with love, light and gratitude.
Afterwards, come and sit with me. I also will hold your hand and walk with you for a while. And if you are wondering what to do with all this pain, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. They won't fix it or make the sadness go away. But they can help you manage it, learn from it, grow with it. And one of the best lessons I've learned this year is that sometimes, you don't really have to do anything.
Just Be with it.
Somewhere packed away, I have my Certificate of Being, bestowed by a humorous professor from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. I think I will dig it out and put it on my desk.