[Note: The following reflection was written by regular Journal reader Karen York (in photo). Karen is a past Executive Vice President at Nashville's Alive Hospice]
The college girls are home now for the Christmas break, once again filling my empty nest with joy. At this point in my life I spend more and more time gathering a thought here and a memory there to weave a tale of my existence.
My life has been a journey of the day-to-day, minute-by-minute accumulation of working, driving, shopping, cooking, eating, sleeping; much like everyone else. In the midst of these anchors that hold a life together, are the opportunities to grab hold of something that makes an eternal difference. Like the way I speak to the elderly gentleman having trouble with the plastic bags in the fruit section at the market. Or the empathetic smile to the mom whose baby won’t stop crying on the airplane.
Maybe it’s the ever-ready all-encompassing hug to anyone who is open to receiving it, or the opening of a door to a stranger. As caregivers, we pave the way for others to be open to receiving love and healing through our compassion, our gestures of grace, and our always-open hearts.
This poem of Rilke is found in his collection of Love Letters to God. Each time I read it, I uncover a new experience as it becomes a deeper part of me. Without the centering of God’s grace and the sharing of love, my life wouldn’t amount to much. It’s in that deep and quiet place, when I come back to where I know I belong, that I am able to stretch beyond the fear that limits me to surround my world with love.
Today I thought of Mary as she held her newborn and perhaps reflected on all that had occurred. In a very deep place, a seed of love was planted and she went about her life, doing her duties, cleaning her house, raising her child, letting him go, and preparing the way for the gift of agape so that each one of us can know Him.
Here is Rilke's poem:
She who reconciles the ill-matched threads of her life,
and weaves them gratefully into a single cloth—
It’s she who drives the loud mouths from the hall and clears it for a different celebration
where the one guest is you.
In the softness of evening it’s you she receives.
You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologue.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond
what limits her