Blog

Jan
29

The New Year Begins

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So many of our families will have endured a tough milestone – Christmas with a loved one missing from the table. We spent some time thinking of those families who have entrusted us with the care of someone they love, and who will have been keenly feeling a loss. We hope that those families were being loved and supported, and lighting a candle for the one who is not with them this year.

It is a good reminder to all of us to reach out at these significant times of the year, to make sure nobody is feeling too alone or without friendship and care.

 


Jan
28

You just have to love Anne Lamott

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We often come across beautifully written pieces that we feel may helpful for our families as they deal with loss and grief. Anne Lamott just always seems to know what to say. We really enjoyed this very personal writing from her own experience…

Anne Lamott
16 January at 07:06 ·
When people we can’t live without die, everyone likes to quote John Donne, “Death be not proud.” Yeah yeah yeah, thank you for sharing. My father died of brain cancer when he was seven years younger than I am now. He was my closest person. I did not love it. My best friend died years ago, leaving behind an 18 month old daughter. She was my closest person. I did not love it, or agree to it, and just barely survived it.

My darling friend Ann Brebner passed away early Friday. (You were so incredibly generous to donate to the fund for her home-care. Your generosity has given me such huge abiding hope in Goodness and miracles. We were down to almost no money. She accidentally spent her life creating and directing plays, loving us crazily, laughing and listening to music, giving to charity, instead of investing.)

Maybe this passing seems less death-y, as she was 93. But believe me, she had done the dying part, the closing-up-shop part, the leaving-us part, just like everyone has to do. It’s death 101 for everyone here on the incarnational side of things: we do it with no owner’s manual (Death for Dummies?) , and at the end, alone. If I were God’s West Coast representative, I would have a different system in place, i.e. less mysterioso Ouija board enigma. More grok-able My grandson stood nearby her at church as she sometimes painstakingly got out of our car. He always called her Ann Brevner, one word. “Hi, Annbrevner!” I told him Friday night that she had passed, and his mouth dropped open. “AnnBREVNER died?” he asked. Then, “I wonder what that’s like? Dying?”

So I thought I would tell you what I know, because this thing, this aspect of reality, this weird scary aspect of life, can just wreck everything if you don’t figure out at some point that it is what makes life so profound, meaningful, rich, complex, wild. If you try to outrun this existential truth, with manic achievement and people-pleasing and exotic distractions, it begins to argue a wasted life. Everyone we love–and I am just going to add, in a whisper, even our children and nieces and nephews–will die. They will no longer be here, on this side of eternity. We Christians see death as just being a fairly significant change of address, but still, our most cherished people will no longer be here, to have and to hold, or reach by phone.

This can kind of ruin everything. When my son was little, he asked if we would die at the exact same moment. When I said, No, probably not, he wept, and then said, “If I had known that, I wouldn’t have agreed to be born.”

Do you want to have instant meaning and incentive and almost heartbreaking appreciation in your life? Live, starting now–as if you have three months left. At some point, this will true. Tick tock.

But won’t death be scary? Annbrevner’s wasn’t. Just weird. Her death, like every passing I have witnessed, was beautiful, gentle, sometimes hard and confusing, and completely doable. At some point, for almost everyone, it is like being in labor. Especially if, like me, dilated 7 centimeters after 24 hours of labor, you realized you didn’t like children. But in both cases, birth and death, something beautiful is coming. Ram Dass said death would be like FINALLY getting to take off the too-small shoes we had been wearing our entire lives. Think of that. Getting to rub those sore arches and wiggle those baby toes, after all these year feeling cramped, like Chinese foot bound women, tiptoeing to minimize the pain.

But back to my grandson’s question, of what dying will be like, and why, I don’t think you need to be afraid:

So many people will surround you, your dearest family and friends, both the quick and the death–Ann’s father, who died fifty years ago was with her; her son who died last year was with her. And we were with her, encouraging and allowing her to be real, to share her deepest thoughts and and fears about what was happening to her, and how annoying liFe (and we) could be. The most important you can do if someone is dying? Show up; listen; nod.

And maybe even more important, we shared with each other our worries, memories, sorrow, impatience, and anxiety about the process, how much more, and much sooner, we could have done this or that. We showed up, we listened to each other, we told others how much we hated everything, and how much we loved each other, we listened some more, we nodded, and put the kettle on for tea.

We let each other complain and not know what we were doing. We tried to remember what we DID know: that the great cosmic Something had always been there before. That the Divine It had brought us and our beloved ones through ghastly loss, disappointment, and failure, against all odds. That crying and grieving heal us, cleanse us, baptize us, moisturize us, water the seeds hidden deep in the ground at our feet.

Our pastor came to anoint her the day before she died, not knowing if Ann’s home-going was an hour or a month away. Hospice was on hand to help with the pain. (If you know your person is dying, call Hospice. Once Hospice is on board, almost everything will sort itself out, I promise you–everything. Secret of life.

Every single person I have loved and lost had us around–their most beloved–and had Hospice, had the richest most astonishing love and sense of safety at the end. They had peace, like a river. Even if their death was sudden, Grace always bats last. They got to take off the tight shoes. They got their Get Out of Jail Free card.

And after they died, stopped breathing and grew cold, we were there, to tend to their bodies in the holy sacrament of bathing and dressing them. Don’t rush any of this. Stay with the body so you can see that it no longer holds them, their life, spirit, soul, breath: now eternity does. Choose the perfect socks for those feet that carried them through their astonishing, hard, weird, precious lives.

Death? Be as proud as you want: bore me later, because Love is sovereign here. Life never ends. Joy comes in the morning. Glory hallelujah. And let it be so.


Jan
19

Welcome Halcyon!

We are so very happy to introduce the lovely Halcyon Saxby to State of Grace!
Halcyon is a warm, friendly, compassionate and all round gorgeous person with a background in palliative care. She is a proud mum of three grown up boys and also a Grandmother (believe it or not!)
We are very happy to have you on our team Halcyon!


Jan
01

Cemetery-envy in Tonga

A recent trip to Tonga, and we stumbled across this beautiful little cemetery in a local village. So peaceful, immaculately kept, prettily decorated, frequently visited.
Just reminded us that it is not necessary to spend a lot of money in order to have a gorgeous and sacred resting place for our loved ones. And how lucky are they, the cemetery is just part of the village and so easily accessible for those times that a little chat with those we love can happen.



May
05

A beautifully written letter received from a loved one

To all of you dear ladies at State of Grace,

I want to say thank you. But thank you isn’t nearly enough of a word to express my gratitude towards you.

From that first phone call I knew that you would look after us, and our beautiful Sue. When you came in and said that Sue’s was a ‘good death’ the comfort you gave me in those words was enormous. I nursed Sue at home until she died, with a visit from a nurse at Mercy Hospice each day. I hoped that what I did made her final days as comfortable as possible and you reassured me of that.

The conversation the boys and I had later with Deborah encouraged us to run the funeral our way. In particular it was meaningful to us not to have a crowd around as when we buried Sue.

I had always observed funeral directors as people who quietly “oiled the machinery” and generally made the right things happen. I now know that you do so much more.

We immediately felt that each one of you was our friend. After Sue died the only thing I felt I could do for her was to give her a memorable funeral. You enabled me to do that.

A thousand thank you’s are not enough to express my gratitude to you.

With love,

John.


Apr
02

Get your tissues out

This is a link to a series of gut-wrenchingly beautiful images, taken by the husband of this woman who had a terminal illness. Shot over a period of time, the photos draw us in so that we feel we walk a little of the journey with them.

This Guy’s Wife Got Cancer, So He Did Something Unforgettable. The Last 3 Photos Destroyed Me.


May
09

And another lovely song…..

You may be forgiven for thinking that we sit about steeped in sadness here at State of Grace, but really we don’t! Mainly we are in a state of deep gratitude – not just for the fact that we are alive and well, but for the fact that families are so trusting, allow us into their lives at such a sad and difficult time, are so courageous,so generous, allow us to get to know the person we are looking after by sharing their stories with us, cry and laugh freely – we are constantly amazed and humbled.

But on the rare occasion we do get into feeling sad, we do sometimes indulge ourselves in a little soulful music and this track by Lucinda Williams get us every time. Written for a friend of hers who committed suicide (which we deal with surprisingly frequently, and of late the suicides of people in their fifties and sixties…). Have a listen by clicking on the words at the top of the post.


May
09

Beautiful funeral music

We often hear music that succinctly and sadly expresses some of the pain and grief felt at the time of a death, but this one always gets us teary! (Skip the little ad at the start).