Hospitality

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Several words are tangled in the etymology  of the word, “hospitality.” It is derived from the Latin hospes, giving us the words host, hospice, hospital, hostel, and hotel, and is therefore connected to the specific metonymies of guest, stranger, and welcome, and to images of lodging and respite where one’s needs are met with attentive compassion.

When our bodies serve as disease vectors harboring bacteria, parasites, and viruses capable of killing us, we are scientifically termed “hosts,” despite our inclination to close the door to these specific visitors. Sometimes, closing the door is the intelligent choice.

But, beyond the physical, we offer shelter to the thoughts and feelings that storm or gently cross the threshold of our hearts and spirits. We are the gatekeepers of our response to each encounter, and we must be mindful of our choices, always.

It is human, healthy, proper, and perfectly acceptable to feel fear, anger, sorrow, and despair. It is important to feel the full and sacred spectrum of what it means to be human. We must honor our abilities to recognize loss, our capacity for empathy, our yearning for community. We must mourn our losses, and they are staggering. It is our responsibility to listen to these feelings, to comfort, and to heal them. Over and over.

And it is also our deeply human responsibility to fashion and live out responses that honor our uniquely human capacity for hope, love, and creativity.

This current virus has already begun its horrifying march of destruction through the earth’s people; we do not have to also grant it the power to destroy our humanity, our courage, our impulse to love, our need to connect with and support each other. Rather, let us widen the doors of our hearts to hold this suffering, to look for ways to offer blessing, and to seek the opportunities to create love that meet us every moment, always. Our human longing to offer and receive hospitality bids us to open the door.

My husband and I have a front door that’s always open to guests. Our commitment to our eight 4-leggeds comes with the sacrifice of frequent journeys far from home to vacation and connect with loved ones. Thankfully, friends and family drop in, stop over, and come by with a frequency that hallows our home and keeps the energy merry. We mourn the loss of these other voices, these kindred spirits, these life-giving companions on our journey. As with all of us these days, no one is knocking at the door, no bells are announcing imminent embrace.

The absence of these visitors and its dreadful source are deeply saddening and fearful. We become frozen in moments robbed of hope.

And then, we go for a walk and see the signs of spring, everywhere, telling us the world can heal. We can practice the earth’s hospitality of welcoming life, of nurturing hope, of becoming the safe harbor of love. 

This week, a pair of finches has built its nest over the light that welcomes guests to our front door. Already, 5 delicate eggs, each a miracle, are warmed by their mother. Life wins, dear friends. Life always wins. Welcome it. Celebrate its renewal. We must never, ever, close the door of our heart to the possibility of guests–human, winged, feathered, scaled, many or few-legged, dreamt, or imagined–who will entertain us, like angels, with blessing.

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are an Easter people and hallelujah is our song. ~ Pope John Paul II

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© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

The Light That Matters

 

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How to greet darkness, when bodies are confined
and spirits reaching…

Begin:
Wake to the morning light.
Welcome the earth’s rhythms.
Join her ancient dance.
Improvise in delight.

Then:
Silence the voices, panicked and chaotic,
crashing in on elsewhere waves.
Open sacred space to stillness.
Inquire within.

Finally:
Recall that seeds are planted in darkness,
and in the gloaming’s mother-embrace,
birth roots.
And, when the daylight fades,
sit in the holy darkness.
Tell stories.
Listen.

Turn to the stars, the Love from which we came:
Welcome the delicate tremble, the flickering wave,
the long goodbyes
sent eons ago,
reminding us, in this moment:
We are the light that matters.

Enlight162

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

The Work of Our Lives

squirrel buddy

We hear you.
We see right through you.

It isn’t about our peace, safety, or welfare.
It never was.

Lives bled of the sacred;
our labor, our time, our energy
line your pockets and homes with gold.

You don’t panic on our behalf.
You’re not desperate for our lives,
for our children,
for our earth.

Hush.
Stop.
Find your way back to humanity.

We will wait.
Safe.
Together.
This is the work of our lives:
Growing beyond the walls you offer.
Compassionate.
Healing.
Creating.

Will you join us?

Choose wisely.

Baby Fox

 

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

 

Via Dolorosa

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Some days, there are no words.
There is only weeping.
And that is also prayer.
And that is also healing.

Death-to-resurrection,
the circle tightens
but never ends.
Today, we travel the arc of grief.

May our tears water the earth.
Soft rains creating new life,
uprising, green, and nurtured
by our sorrow.

Oh, sweet bird,
sing your song of spring;
lift our hearts on your wings;
carry us to peace.

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© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Traveling the Circle

“We’re all just walking each other home.”  ~ Ram Dass

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Please, read this. 

Then, turn off the phone, shut down the anxiety-driven frenzy of media and say, “I will die.”

Begin the work now.

I will die; you will die; everyone you love will die. Every living thing will die. 

If that’s hard, I get it. A well-examined life and death are very hard and the meaning we assign them must be continually engaged.

Yes, it’s painful. It requires facing truths, sorting, asking forgiveness, making difficult decisions, changing, and surrender.

With compassion, I invite you to do it, anyway. 

Do this very important work. Now. 

I will die; you will die; everyone you love will die. Every living thing will die.

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Healthcare workers are in a hell of death right now, and families are still denying death, demanding their aged, dying loved ones be put through more suffering than they can endure, accusing doctors and nursers and social workers and respiratory therapists of murder, believing a vent, if there were one, would absolutely ensure survival.

News flash: If you need a vent, you’re already closer to death than you’ve likely been.

The dying begins at birth; our bodies are miraculous machines; they also, like cars, begin to depreciate the second they roll out of the factory.

I will die; you will die; everyone you love will die. Every living thing will die.

The deep denial of this in our culture, also spoon-fed from birth, created a Western medical model that also, still, struggles with this truth. Cardio-pulmonary physicians and surgeons still aren’t adequately trained in allowing the reality of death to flow in congruence with the impetus to heal. They’re engineers; their brains and necessary gifts are focused on fixing. And we should be damn grateful for their gifts and expertise. We enter hospitals desiring to be fixed.

And we should also be educated and challenged to know how to turn from these gifted experts to cradle, accept, and even welcome our dying in peace and comfort when that sacred time has signaled its invitation.

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15 years ago, when I walked the halls of a hospital to listen, to offer comfort where I may, to ease the hard decisions, to help prepare loved ones for loss, or start them on the long road of grief, I was privileged to serve on a new Palliative Care Team struggling for funding and acceptance among all those engineers. Here is how the that team handled a death: 

When specialists noted a patient’s chances for stabilization were falling, we hoped for a consult. Often, the specialists resisted this. Death was failure. The expertise, the god-like power to save and work miracles, the inability to surrender, the lack of living with an acceptance of death was very strong in Western medicine. In some places, it still is.

I will die; you will die; everyone you love will die. Every living thing will die.

On those graced occasions when our Palliative Care Team was called to consult the families and, if possible, the patient, options were discussed and the topic of death approached, with respect, dignity, and honesty: how it could look; how it might be supported; and, conversely, what the dying could look like if “every attempt” were made to “save” this life. What was the true quality of life desired? Was it possible?

The families listened. Sometimes they heard what we said; often, they didn’t. Shock, grief, fear, and anger were common. We would start again. 

Some families cohered. They had a common orientation regarding how they would offer support to the one they loved; or their beliefs about life and death were shared and directed their decisions; or they’d already had these thoughts and conversations, and knew what path they were on. These were encounters that worked honestly with the reality of death and acknowledged the mystery ushering us all from our first through our last breath. Love and peace were easily accessed and shared by everyone in these experiences. Patients could be transferred to hospice in time to be made comfortable, with pain managed, surrounded by loved ones, and the music, voices, or joyful symbols of their lives and lasting legacies within view.

More often and, again, if we even received the referral from the engineers, we needed to start over, share everything a second or third time, or loop in a family member by phone, or wait for her arrival, usually with a lot more baggage than visible. There would be arguments. Patients would die before family members arrived. Families would break. Or they would all choose to put a dying member, already fragile and with one or more advanced diseases, through invasive surgery, transfer to a nursing home, and, frequently, death by pneumonia, after weeks of pain and suffering.

Because loved ones couldn’t let go. 

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I will die; you will die; everyone you love will die. Every living thing will die.

In the ICU, where in-hospital deaths usually occurred, the family was invited to wait outside the room as life support was removed. Rarely could they stay as long as they needed to, or derive much peace in an antiseptic hospital room, though we tried to use attractive quilts, flowers, and dimmed lights to lend some suggestion of the sacred and the dignity owed a human’s leave-taking. We shared consciously ticking time in conversation, prayer, memories, began the forever journey of adjustment, and then they would leave. Our Palliative Care Team and the chaplain staff pushed against this undercurrent of urgency, requested whatever time was necessary, but…Western healthcare. Time is money. ICU rooms need to be available. 

The family, in deep grief, would support each other down the hallways to the front elevators, embrace and weep their partings on some cold and windy gas-stained floor of the parking lot, and drive away.

The body of the departed patient, still a shaming medical failure, an embarrassment, was covered and quietly wheeled to a back elevator and sent to the morgue. The butterfly decal would be removed from the door of patient’s former room: No death here!

How much healthier the deaths at hospice were: Family were present and comforted every step of the way. Patients and family were guided through necessary forgiveness of self and each other. Family and loved ones were witnesses to the pain management and attention given to their loved one; they were helped in setting aside their anxieties and focusing on the one preparing to leave. They were invited to reassure the dying one that he was loved, that it was O.K. to leave whenever he was ready, that his family would love and care for each other and also be “O.K.”

And when he died, a procession of family and friends sang his body down hallways lined with every caregiver in the building who could be present, and out to a hearse, where blessing, prayer, poetry, and song could be offered before another farewell was shared.

Death as life-giving.

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I will die; you will die; everyone you love will die. Every living thing will die.

Palliative Care Teams and hospice workers are now better accepted and better funded, and working in greater collaboration with their gifted colleagues. 

And they are all standing in the midst of this crisis, risking their own deaths, nightmarishly under-equipped, sinfully unprotected, struggling without breaks, working against time, trying to infuse an overwhelming crisis with compassion, allocation of resources, adherence to ethics, and respect for patients and families. 

The last thing they need right now is a denial of death on the part of anyone. 

They are sacrificing everything for us.

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We are so loving towards our other animal companions when they are dying. We are so wide awake and so very present to their need to die in peace. Can we offer this strength and support and true love to ourselves and our human loved ones?

I will die; you will die; everyone you love will die. Every living thing will die.

We must make peace with our dying. In a crisis like this, there is not time to deny and demand the impossible. Surrender must be offered with immediacy, with a readiness derived from our own hard work in accepting death. Any moment may snatch our loved ones from us, and we must have that deep well of strength built upon our own philosophies and theologies, that allows us to say Yes. Goodbye. I love you. I will be O.K. Do not suffer. Let go. I accept this. 

Heron Pensive

And, then we grieve. We weep and wail; we move through time smeared with tears, and strangeness, and adaptation, naming the voids beside us and yearning for their physical, corporeal return till we can endure to breathe again and see that the void was always filled with memory and spirit and the felt presence of the one who has died. Who has changed worlds. Who bids us reconnect with our lives on this side of the mystery. 

The generosity and compassion of accepting our death and the death of everything we love then freely flows to healthcare workers who are not “rationing,” but heartbreaking their way through every moment of this crisis. 

I will die; you will die; everyone you love will die. Every living thing will die. This is the Lenten journey for Christians; other faiths honor the journey as well. 

Death always gives life, and we must realize this, too. Spring and fertility return. Creation continues. Legacies are passed on; they shape who we become, and we are always becoming. This is called Easter. Humans have always honored the circular rhythms of life. We must find our back to them.

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Saying hello plants the seed of saying farewell. Intimacy ends in separation. Life and death are partners. One feeds the other in a circle both devastating and miraculous.

Look for the green and growing. Nurture it. Seek opportunities to heal and be healed. Be kind. Be present. Forgive. Live with heartbreak. Share gratitude for every breath, for every opportunity to love. And love wildly.

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© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for commercial interest. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

In the Time of Pandemic, Part II

And some illusions slipped away.
And some men saw their power vanish, but reached, and grasped, and struggled.
Return to work, they commanded.
Build walls, they ordered.
Spend money on things you do not need.
Blame the other.
Fear strangers.
Respect my power.

And the people said no.

They said: You do not own our gifts.
They are ours alone to share.
The earth and her people are out of balance.
The medicine is another way.
We must be still.

The illness is our teacher.
We will listen to the lessons.

The earth is home to all.

And we will heal ourselves.
And balance will be restored.

The earth is home to all.

And we will nurse the stranger.
And we will feed the stranger.
And we will shelter the stranger.
And we will love the stranger,
within and without.

The earth is home to all.

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© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for commercial interest. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Love is Winning

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You know how,
in the classic hero/heroine journey,
there’s that last bit of the adventure

when the dark forces REALLY turn against our heroine?

All appears hopeless,
and all success,
all reversal of bad fortune,
the final defeat of the dark,
the reaching of goals,
the hope of returning home,
all that is sacred

seem lost forever.

I think we’re there,

Or almost there.

Maybe,
if we pause to breathe
and unite,
we can renew our spirits
and keep up the good fight,
the fight for healing,
wholeness,
equality,

and love…

Maybe,
if we join our efforts
to save those truths we value,
and save the planet

on which they can flourish…

Maybe,

we’ll turn this around.

We are the heroes and heroines

of this story.

We must be.

Look all around–
Do you see?
Love is winning.
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Today, every day, my blessings go out to those heroines and heroes in our healthcare frontlines. We do not know the horrors they are facing, every moment of every day that we are living through this pandemic. They are meeting tragedies and making choices we cannot imagine. Please, please manage your own safety and send these people your love and gratitude. Please also remember those who visit and provide what we call home healthcare.
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Blessings and gratitude to all those who are leaving home to work in the world at this time so that many of us can continue to be safe at home. Blessings to those worried about survival and the resources to do so. Blessings to all of us in our isolation, managing our fear, yearning to touch and embrace those we love who are far away; seeking peace.

I have seen so many, many acts of connection, love, and creativity these past many days:
People delivering food to those in need and people creating apps to help with this.
People donating to shelters.
People singing to each other from their balconies,
People sitting across streets from neighbors to share meals,
People forming virtual care groups to keep in touch,
People minding the pets of those who cannot,
People caring for children when schools and daycares close,
People offering free virtual lessons for ballet, music, painting, foreign (to us) languages,
People making us laugh,

People forgiving what’s owed to them under former ways of being in community…

We have all seen this, and felt these invitations to be the best people we can be. Let’s keep finding safe ways to care for each other. We are in this mystery together; we always have been. Take heart: Love is winning. Be kind.

“Everything will be all right in the end…if it’s not all right, then it’s not yet the end.” (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

Please share comments of the kindnesses you are witnessing.

Gentle Peace
© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.