Friday, December 27, 2013

Empathy's Gift

Cracked Grace
Holding the Hand of Those Who Mourn
The Gift of Empathy
Empathy Is When Hearts Touch

My friend’s son died two years ago today. I could say, “I know how she feels,” but I don’t know how she feels. However, I get it. I get child death, having lived through (and sort of past) the gut-searing grief she and her husband now experience. Her son came into the world in 1986, only a few months before my child left it.
But I didn’t lose her child—her son—so, no, I don’t presume to know how she feels. All I know is that she is grieving. And I know my heart aches for her because I’m aware of how that hole in the heart feels—that hole that can never be filled, two years later, five years later, twenty-seven years later.
I want to tell her that in spite of the hole that can never be filled, the time will come that the gut-searing ache she feels from this loss won’t hurt so bad. I want to tell her that the moments in which you feel you cannot breathe become fewer. I want to tell her that the moments when you want to run with no destination, only to run, from this reality, this loss, become fewer.
I want to reassure her that love doesn’t change; love remains. The loss also doesn’t change, but peace and comfort come more often as if on wings of white doves.
I pray those doves bless her with their presence today and every day.

How to Hold the Hand of Those Who Mourn: It’s often difficult to know what to say to someone who is grieving. Saying nothing creates a void that crushes. Saying the wrong thing creates more brokenness in a heart that already is beyond hurt. Don't say: "I know how you feel." You don't. Instead, say: “I love you.” “How can I help?” Acknowledge the hurt, the pain, and through examples of love, compassion, and empathy reassure those who are experiencing loss that they are loved and they are not alone.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cracked Grace: Anticipation

Cracked Grace


Memory awakes from its slumber as I ponder Christmas Eves past . . .
My final peek at the tree at the bottom of the stairs
Before I made a weary climb to blessed rest.


It’s missing this Christmas Eve
With no small children underfoot
Bursting with anticipation
Wondering what they’d find beneath that tree
After their busy morning feet raced downstairs.


Wistful, longing, wanting what’s not here.
In doing so, I forget that
I create anticipation.
I can make my own this quiet Christmas Eve.


Bread baking later today
Its scent wafting from the kitchen and through the house.
Waking tomorrow morning, knowing my family is safe.
Telephone calls, merry laughs.
Sharing food and baby laughter later in the day.


What can I create to bring the joy of
Anticipation to this Christmas Eve
And every eve?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Solstice Light, Longest Night

Cracked Grace

Solstice Light
I peer into the semi-darkness.
Fog rises in a wispy cloud as
Moisture leaves the surface of the Earth
And makes way for the sun’s light
Little though it will be
On this shortest light, longest night, winter solstice day.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Cracked Grace

My friend is sick.
Really sick—as in cancer sick and in the hospital sick.

I wish I had a mountain of editing and proofreading on my desk today. I don’t.

If I did, I wouldn’t sit here festering, worrying, close to tears.

I have a to-do list, as I do most days.
It’s hard to follow it as I ponder away at life and other mysteries
And ask questions that have no answers, not a one.

Instead of asking
Perhaps I can try to step through this day with grace,
This Cracked Grace
And let my day be a walking prayer for wholeness
Whatever form that may take.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Compassion's Challenge

Cracked Grace
Compassion’s Challenge

Compassion is my challenge today.

I find it difficult to have compassion
For those who appear to have none
In their righteous indignation
And moral superiority.

Compassion means I look past
That indignation, moral ego, and judgment.

Instead, I see the heart that aches,
The wounds that aren’t healed.
Compassion brings me to the hearts of each of us
Broken, yearning, seeking.

With compassion,
I pave a path for all to walk with grace.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Got Swiss Cheese Holes in Your Heart?

Cracked Grace
Swiss Cheese Holes in My Heart

“Plants,” they said.
“Fill your home with plants to clean the air.”

Aching to cure our child’s cancer,
We followed a strict diet regimen, changed our lifestyles,
And filled our home with plants.

No cure. Not with diets, plants, lifestyle changes
And surgery, radiation, and chemo.

I bought a Swiss Cheese Philodendron
At that time.
When I see it growing healthy and green,
I’m sometimes reminded of loss, of sorrow,
Of the Swiss Cheese Holes in my heart
Since the death of my child.

Other times, I’m reminded that throughout these years of loss,
I’ve begun to thrive in other ways I never imagined,
Sharing with others and holding them up when they, too,
Have Swiss Cheese Holes in their hearts.

I’m also reminded that I love Swiss Cheese
And that even in the worst of times,
I can make a sandwich from those
Swiss Cheese Holes in my heart.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Life Beyond the Petals' Violet Hues Cannot Be Ignored

View from Inside the Orchid
A World Within Shows the Way
To Worlds Beyond
It’s well-lit inside the orchid. I have an extraordinary view from where I’m perched deep inside this bloom, the petals just beginning to to unfurl, to show me more of the outside world from where I sit. Below me and on both sides of me are cream-colored layers. Green hues move from the palest hint to brighter and brighter, and then they morph into the regal violet petals that are ready to embrace the outside world. I am comfortable, warm, serene.
I gaze up at the greens and violets and feel my psyche tugged toward those outer petals, but for now, I’m content to sit in the creamy inner world of this orchid, where the down-cushioned bloom wraps around me. Ah, but the greens draw my eyes to them, and from there, my eyes continue to travel farther away from this plush center. The regal violet petals strike my senses awake, firing them with energy, with life. I know, because I have viewed these petals from the outside, that when held to the light, they shimmer like gems or Rapunzel’s straw once spun into gold. If I leave this world deep within and move closer to those gems, I’ll catch their sparkle on my skin and I, too, will shimmer.

Oh, I yearn to meander up and out of this orchid and onto those petals. The light that beckons me is different above the violet petals. This interior world has its own rich creams and emerald greens, but as I gaze up and out, the light beyond the violet petals is not finite. It isn’t enclosed within the body of this precious bloom. That light moves and spreads and hints of the promise of more worlds, rather than the singular world I now experience within the orchid—lovely as it is.

 This orchid bloom’s inner world is delicate, yet finite in its enclosure. I’m aware of the bloom’s capacity for continued life because flecks of pollen dust my hair, but the life within this bloom also is limited—finite—as is the light.
Fragility of the petals and the blossom’s delicate construction mean a journey up and out of this world must be done with care. Comforting and serene as it is within this world, the light and worlds above these violet hues cannot, will not, be ignored. The life beyond this creamy comfort calls.

In Our Eyes . . . Wonder and Delight—Outside

Cracked Grace
 Life’s Wonder Awaits . . .
The wonder and delight of the world

View the Earth with fresh eyes.
Gaze through an open window.
Explore life
With the eyes of a child.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

You Can't Think About Anything Else

Cracked Grace

Standing in the Now

“When you’re trying to hold yourself up,
you can’t think about anything else.”
On balance poses (and life)—Katryn Miller,Yoga Teacher, Groton, MA

Being off-balance is scary. We’re afraid of falling. In life, when it’s difficult to find balance, to hold ourselves up, it is important that we not think about anything else except achieving and holding that balance.

When standing in a yoga pose, one leg raised, one foot on the ground, if I think about what I’m doing, I teeter to the right, then to the left—my thoughts unbalance me and I begin to fall.

When holding myself up in life, if I think about what I’m doing, I teeter to the right, then to the left—my thoughts unbalance me and I begin to fall.

“When you’re trying to hold yourself up,
you can’t think about anything else.”

Tree Pose

Monday, December 2, 2013

Counting Breaths . . .

Cracked Grace
This Babe Sleeping
This babe sleeping
Flesh of my flesh
Once removed.
An unbroken thread of connection winds from my body, my blood,
To my daughter and then to her sleeping child.

I study her breaths
My eyes intent on the rise and fall of her chest.
I give sweet surrender to this moment
And savor this babe asleep.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hula-Hoops—and Yeast Is Alive

Cracked Grace
Hula-Hoops—and Yeast Is Alive
“Thanks” for the Memories
Instant-share Thanksgiving is today. In moments, we can show people near and far—even continents away—our food, family, friends. But we can’t photograph a feeling or Kodachrome a memory.
Put down the camera and savor what’s meaningful to you this day. Instead, press what’s precious like a dried flower in the memories of your heart.
* * * * *

Thanksgiving came eleven days early for my family this year. I took few photos, but have memories that delight my senses and put the twinkle of a smile in my eyes:
Hula-hooping in the backyard with my sister, daughters, and friends. The youngest trying her hips at hoops was twenty-three. Hula-hoops—not just for kids anymore.
At long last, someone else in my family understands that yeast is alive. My nephew helped me shape the warm, risen dough into rolls this year. I can’t easily explain the yeast-dough-life connection. You pretty much get it—or not. He gets it.

This day of thanks, choose a moment to savor, to deposit in your heart’s memory bank. Enjoy, be thankful, be there.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Will Work for Inspirational Interactions

Cracked Grace
Spiritual Glue
Inspirational interactions are the glue we use to hold our souls together.

You need “inspirational interactions,” he said. I replied, “What do you want me to do, stand on the corner with a sign that says: Will work for inspirational interactions?”

On reflection, I realize it’s a better plan to stop at each corner of my life. At those corners, I am likely to meet someone with whom I can have an inspirational interaction. All I have to do is open my spirit to theirs. Sounds easier than most day jobs.

Artwork courtesy of Chelsea Smith, © 2013.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Even the Lone Mourning Dove Continues to Sing

Cracked Grace
Mourning Dove Song
Even the Lone Mourning Dove
Continues to Sing
I see a solitary mourning dove and hear the notes of its lone sweet song. I look for its mate. Finding none, I experience a slight stab of wistfulness. I feel tender grief for the lone dove.
Lone as the dove is, however, it continues to sing—to pierce the solitary air with its melodies of life.
The song of the dove reminds me that whatever our place in families, friends, relationships, we have much to share if we but open our hearts to sing.

* * * * *

Mourning doves are monogamous and mate for life. However, if one loses its mate, it often finds another and continues to sing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering the Shock and Anguish Fifty Years Later

The Bitter Taste of Anguish
When Our President Died
November 22, 1963

The life of President John F. Kennedy was first on today’s gratitude list in my journal. The rest of today’s entry follows:

It’s hard to believe I was once the little girl—preteen—sitting in my classroom crying because our president was killed. Yesterday, a friend and I spoke about the “past,” and how we don’t have to relive it. We don’t, but remembering—memory—is important. Memories can shape who we are today if we use them to fuel the positive aspects of life we have gained from our experiences. And what was/is positive about November 22, 1963? We mourned together—as we now also do on September 11. That time—fifty years ago—shaped who we are today.
Did Fears of Nuclear Annihilation
Armor Our Psyches?
I remember being so fearful during the months preceding the assassination. I was afraid of war, of nuclear attack, of bombs dropping from the sky. None of those things happened. However, I now wonder if at some deep level of our collective psyches we weren’t prepared, maybe not prepared, but holding our personal armor in front of us to brace for the disaster we perceived was imminent. However, the disaster through which we lived was light years away from what we feared. Perhaps it was because I was numb after the horror of our president’s murder, but my memories of duck-and-cover drills and practice evacuation walks to the railroad tracks fade after that November day.
What never faded was our collective grief and dismay that the president so loved was cut down in such a cruel manner as he smiled and waved to the people of Dallas on a day that the sky was clear and blue.
A Bitter Taste of Anguish
Those of us who were young enough to not yet be wounded by life and uncertainty and the random chaos that breaks hearts, had our first bitter taste of anguish that day. We were changed and continue to be changed by those dark clouds that crept across the blue and blocked the light of the world.