Big World Small Boat
Private Diary of A Priest. OK, so we're not all angels...Everyone needs a place to get things off their chest! And yes, I do talk to God about it all! Even He has a sense of humour! Want proof? Well, he made me, didn't He? Oh, one last thought-If you don't like what I've written, please keep in mind - it's MY diary. Go write your own!
- Name: Father Bill Haymaker
- Location: England, United Kingdom
I've been serving children in crisis for over twenty five years. My goals are not to raise money, but to find organisations and individuals who can help change lives! What may be outdated equipment for you could change the life of a child in Eastern Europe! To learn more please visit our site at: www.ProjectNewLife.org
Words of Comfort For the Dying
A parent of friends of mine is currently in our local hospice. It’s sad to see that his deterioration has come so rapidly and particularly in that he has so clearly been fighting for survival. On Saturday, he was unconscious and it was thought that he would soon pass. But on Sunday morning, he was chatting with his wife and hospice staff. This is not unusual.
It’s a common occurrence to see people in the final hours of their lives, moving between a peaceful calm and an anxious state. There is clearly a struggle in their spirit to live. And it’s a fact that the strength of that spirit is undeniably tied to their struggle to remain on this earthly plain. Even though their physical bodies are failing and damaged beyond our ability to repair, the powerful spirit within that individual – that deep instinct to protect our human shell, fights to accept any kind of quality of life that is offered them.
Death is that moment of passing that comes as the spirit acknowledges that these mortal remains are no longer able to sustain its presence. And it is okay to acknowledge this, to accept it as yet another part of our journey. In fact, this is where the presence of family, friends and carers can often help most, with their words of comfort and prayers. The dying will come to accept the new journey that their spirit needs to take.
If you’re a family member, speak of the happy times you’ve shared together, the celebrations you’ve had, the joys you’ve experienced together and never forget to share how much you love them. Acknowledge that this is just an interval in time and that you will all be together again soon.
If you’ve had a spirited relationship with the person who’s dying, acknowledge that you’ve had your ‘ups and downs,’ but reaffirm the power of that love and ask them to forgive any transgression there may have been. Please, do not use this time to be accusatory or stating what your wishes may have been. This time is long past and by your presence and giving of yourself; you are providing the greatest blessing you could ever imagine – for both of you.
One of the greatest gifts you can provide, whether you’re a family member, friend, or professional carer is the gift of touch. Even when words can no longer be spoken, the gift of touch is a potent form of spiritual communication. I often rub the hands or feet of someone who is in transition. There are times when I stroke their hair. These gentle acts are no different than the loving embrace we receive as we come into this world.
And of course, there’s the power of prayer. Never underestimate the strength of that communication. As you offer your supplications, not only does God hear, but the living spiritual being you’re praying for hears as well. Acknowledging that it’s okay to let go, that there is life beyond is a form of blessing. And indeed, you too will be blessed.
Finding The Right Words of Comfort
I stood a short distance from the family as mourners came to offer their condolences after the burial. And I watched and listened as people so desperately tried to convey their compassion over the tragic loss this young couple have just experienced.
Some fumbled with words then simply broke into tears. Others offered sentiments that some might consider to be inane or even cruel. ‘You’re both young, you’ll have more children,’ one woman offered. The couple were too lost in their grief to even comprehend what the woman had said.
Perhaps it’s because we don’t know what to say that we sometimes say the wrong things. In our distress with another person’s suffering we often feel that we must offer words that will somehow help move the grieving individuals along.
Personally, I feel there is much more of a spiritual connection and sentiment in the power of a silent embrace. No words are necessary to convey sharing the human emotion of pain and sorrow and loss. Especially when we all accept that there are no answers. And so we weep at what has happened. And so too - God weeps with us.
One elderly gentleman suggested that the child’s death was God’s will. I disagree. The God we worship, our God who watches over us, doesn’t will the death of children, or the pain of their parents. Many, many things that happen in this world are not the will of God. That is part of the price of the freedom we have been given by God.
I watched the couple stand in numb silence as an aunt told them that God wanted their son in Heaven with Him. While I am confident God has welcomed him into His kingdom, I am certain God did not want this child to die right now so that He could have him there.
Others continued to offer the same thought; that they were young and they could have more children. This may be true, but other children will never replace this little life. He was his own person. The empty place his death has left in their hearts will never be filled simply because they have another child. Nor should it be. Every child is unique and precious. I realise that people say such things with a desire to comfort the bereaved. They desperately long to find some way to help. May God Bless them for it.
But know that we are faced with a mystery - the mystery of life, and of death, in which there are no easy answers.
And for the grieving parents who may feel that no one will ever understand their pain?...
God understands. He has a son who died also.
Labels: comforting words, Comforting Words Death, Comforting words for loss of child, Death of a child, healing words death, words for death of infant, words of comfort, Words of comfort for loss of child
Exercise Your Freedom!
This vote is arguably the most important voting event since the World War. And in the face of the grim spectre of terrorism in our country, our citizens are keen to elect leadership that will help to steady the course and work to protect the freedoms countless millions fought for and lost their lives so that we can live our lives in safety.
The Book In The Attic
I wanted him to find a book for me. Considering our attic, that’s not far from asking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Kudos to Willem though, he deftly moved among the rafters and extracted the exact book I wanted from beneath layers of Christmas ornaments, general khazeray and dust.
For anyone under the age of 16 who may be reading this, a ‘book’ is something that people used during the Neolithic Age for learning, or the conveyance of information.
The book contains nothing spectacular; it’s just one of many now. And it contains thoughts that I wanted to save for her, or observations I had during different times of her life. Today is Mary’s birthday and I thought it would be nice to see where my thoughts were on the day she was born.
Although the dust critters have done a rather good job on the cover of her first book, the contents still leap out at me as if they had been freshly written.
This child is not my child
She is God’s gift and God’s charge
I may give her my love and share my experiences
But she will mould her own life
with my guidance
For the moment we rejoice in the birth of our children
God has danced with us and we have all joined hands
I shall celebrate, sing, and nurture your soul
for it is the greatest responsibility of my life
Miss Mary, God has danced with you
Always follow in His footsteps
And you will always hear His music
Happy birthday sweetheart. May you continue to hear His music for the rest of your life!
The Best Waitress In The World
The sea-front room we sat in wasn’t busy. I wouldn’t expect it to be during off-season. There were no more than 14 guests in the entire dining room. In one corner stood what appeared to be the matriarch of service staff. She looked to be in her sixties and the lines on her face certainly had stories to tell – the most revealing one was that she did not want to be there!
I watched her amble up to her customers, shoulders slumped forward, as if in submission to whatever demon it was that haunted her. And with no movement of her elbows, she’d shove a menu card onto the table and walk away. It was an amazing sight.
To our fortune we had the other waitress. She couldn’t have been any older than 17. There was a sparkle of youth in her eyes and she was actually a bit ‘over-chatty.' As she moved back and forth from the diners to her prep table, she’d glance back several times, as if she were repeatedly taking a mental inventory of the number of people at the table.
There they were, the yin and yang of wait staff. And the scene was not unlike many we witness in Britain’s service industry. Bearing in mind that in Britain salaries for wait staff are deplorable; customers don’t generally tip, and we don’t tend to rate very high on motivating staff. This symbol of age diversity appeared to have just been left to it - to get on with what they were hired to do: distribute teas and cakes and collect the money.
Our waitress’ name was Fiona. I only know this because I asked. She had no nametag. But I always prefer to address staff by a name rather than the anonymous ‘Oh miss!’ You would have thought Fiona was from America. It was less than five minutes before we had a complete dossier on her life, right down to the number of days she had been ‘going with’ her new boyfriend, Bryon. (14 days).
What I found unique was in how Fiona would methodically work through her tasks. When we ordered, she’d repeat it, not write it down. And you could see her point her eyes upwardly, as if she were gazing into her forehead, to ensure that her brain was connected and paying attention. And after she brought our simple order of tea and scones, she quietly but audibly called out the items that were on the table. ‘Spoons, cups, tea, clotted cream, jam, extra hot water.’ ‘No, there wasn’t any extra hot water.’ Fiona said this, not me. And off she went to fetch more water for the teapot.
When Fiona returned with the water I asked her if I could ask her a question. ‘Sure,’ she replied. I told her that I didn’t recall seeing anyone go through such strides before to make sure everything was in place.
Fiona half sighed and half smiled. ‘That’s my Nan over there,’ she said, as she pointed her thumb backwards over her shoulder towards the other waitress, whom I had now bestowed with the name ‘Gloom monster.’ ‘She raised me up on account of my mum couldn’t cope with me. My Nan says I’ll grow up to be nothing, just like me mum. She’s in Brockhill (a women’s prison in the Midlands). But I never see her.'
Fiona went on: ‘I don’t want to be a failure; I want to make something of myself. I like this job and I want to work in one of the fancy hotels in London, but they say you got to have good training.’
I told her I was impressed. I asked if she had received training that taught her to name out the items on the table. ‘No,’ said Fiona, ‘I just hear people complain all the time about my Nan because she never brings them things, so I decided that I would make a list for myself to go through.’ And at that point she pulled out of her apron a crinkled folded sheet of paper and put it in front of me. ‘See,’ she said proudly, ‘this is my list of things I make for myself and I put it on my work station when I start work so I can go over it. Do you think this is the right thing to do?’
The list consisted of roughly written, and badly misspelled words; but the point was clear: Smile, say Hi, ask if they like it, get the order right, ask if you can bring more things. There were other words on the list, but I couldn’t quite make them out.
Her eyes were wide as if she desperately needed someone to validate her creativity. ‘Well done!’ I told her. ‘Who taught you to do this?’ I asked. ‘Nobody, I just want to make sure I do things right,’ she said confidently.
I told her I thought she was doing a lovely job and she should be proud of how hard she was working. Fiona left the table smiling.
She came around twice and asked if there were anything else we would like. Rather than focusing on our originally intended chit-chat, my friend and I continued to watch her. She had regimented herself in the way she served her guests. And my friend noted that it was almost as if Fiona intentionally distanced herself, as far as possible, away from her grandmother.
We didn’t need to ask for the bill. Fiona watched to see when we had finished. She came up and asked if there were anything else she could bring us. And when I said ‘no, thank you,’ Fiona asked if she could leave the bill on our table and she would come collect it whenever it was convenient for us.
I smiled at her. Her demeanour was lovely and I have no doubt, with the determination she showed us, she will rise above the obviously difficult life she has already endured.
But I had a surprise to come. Fiona looked at us and asked, ‘do you mind if I ask you two something?’ I said ‘sure,’ not knowing exactly what was coming. ‘ It’s kind of personal,’ she added.
In that instant I had a sudden surge of adrenaline, as I was preparing myself to be asked if we could either adopt her, or fund some home-study course on hotel management. Shame on me.
‘How long do you think it will take me?’ My friend and I looked at each other. My friend asked, ‘how long will what take?’ Fiona looked at us both. I’m sure she was looking at my friend a bit longer than she looked at me; perhaps she was sizing her up as potential mother, or older sister material. ‘How long will it take me to learn to be the best waitress ever?’
We all encounter moments in our lives that we instinctively know we will never forget for as long as we live. I had to stand up. I smiled at Fiona as I rose from my chair and I placed my hand on her arm and looked intently into her eyes.
‘Fiona,’ I said, ‘You already are the best waitress in the world. Your commitment starts now, this very second. It doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities for learning and doing better. But as long as you are determined to be the best, you will remain the best, forever.’
I think she wanted to hug me. It was quite cute watching her body language as she smiled at me, then looked at my friend, then back at me. She didn’t, but I know she clearly understood what I had shared with her.
There are lots of Fiona’s in this world. And there’s an equal number of Gloom Monsters about as well. But it’s the Fiona’s who will prevail.
So, whatever it is you are striving for; be it a medical degree, a relationship, or the field of hospitality, it is today that you are the best.
Fast Tracks To Hell
The girl had either overdosed on heroin or the concoction she bought had been mixed with something even more lethal. This would be for the coroner to determine.
It was a tragic sight, and one that is all too common these days. At nineteen years old, this child had only experienced sadness and misery throughout her life. According to her long medical history she had been in and out of hospital most of her life; the earliest notations reflecting that she had been a victim of child abuse ten years earlier. The nurse, Rachel, pointed out that her medical history indicated there was no emergency contact, along with a note that her mother had died the previous year from a drug overdose. Her body had already remained there for a couple of hours as the nursing and orderly staff were quite busy.
Every month there’s a small trickle of young people who try to escape their lives by heading south to the English coast. Sadly, the problems they are running from most often become compounded when they discover that their real crisis comes from within.
This wasn’t one of the hospitals where I generally serve. I had come to visit with the nurse to discuss arranging an interment service for her mother’s cremains. Rachel’s shift was at night and it was easier for both of us, for me to come visit her during her break, and then I could visit a family who lived nearby. But I knew that any emergency would take priority over her break schedule.
I asked Rachel for a favour. I wanted to bring someone to see this girl’s body. I was quickly thinking of an idea that I hoped might bring some light from this darkness.
She didn’t mind, but said I would have to do it immediately, otherwise, the porter would take the girl’s body to the morgue and she would no longer have authority to let me see her. I promised her I’d try to be back within the hour. It was a long drive to where I intended to go and I wasn’t entirely certain I’d find the girl I wanted to see.
I met Laura last October in a supermarket. She was trying to pay for her groceries but was so high she couldn’t sort the coins in her purse. In addition to the strong stench of alcohol, Laura had the drawn skeletal features of a drug addict.
Over a period of months I came to learn about her life. I didn’t see her regularly. On many occasions she’d send me text messages, asking me to come see her, but when I’d get there she was either not there, or had chosen not to respond to my knocking. This went on for almost four months. Over time, however, I began to piece together bits of information about Laura. Even in the hot summer sun, she always had her arms and legs completely covered.
One day as I sat with her in a park I noticed her ankles. They had horrific welts on the back, slightly above the heel. Although she had continually insisted that her problem was with alcohol, my suspicions were confirmed and I encouraged her to be truthful with me. She had been injecting heroin with her husband for the past two years.
But over the past couple of weeks there had been some dramatic changes taking place - some positive, and some frightening. Laura now has a place to live on her own. And she’s free of her drug addict husband. I physically carried him and his meagre belongings to the train station and purchased a one-way ticket to the town where his mother lived. And I prepared an application for a court order, on Laura’s behalf, to prevent him from coming near her.
A constable friend of mine helped by explaining to Laura’s husband, in the most graphic terms, what would happen to him should he come anywhere near her new home. Honestly, I think the only thing that really frightened him was the constable’s ‘aide memoire’ that he’d be unable to have access to any drugs at all.
It was with a mix of relief and caution that I was even able to get him on the train. I don’t think I would have been successful without him being high on whatever it was he was taking. I know he had been injecting himself with a mixture of heroin and amphetamines, so his behaviour was, at best, unpredictable.
I eventually found the small bedsit Laura had been given by the local council. There was a single bed, a miniature fridge that couldn’t hold much more than a pint of milk and some cheese, a chair, and an extremely old radio.
When Laura opened the door she was happy to see me. She put her arms around me and kissed me on the cheek. I actually shuddered as I felt the icy kiss of near death from her lips on my face. Her eyes had shrunk deep into their sockets, and as I put my hand on her arms to slightly guide her towards her chair, all I could feel were her bones, enveloped with loose tissue. It was truly as close as I could imagine to dealing with a deceased body several days old. And I noticed that she now looked quite jaundiced; suggesting possible hepatitis and liver disease, or worse.
I told Laura I wanted to take her somewhere with me this very moment and she’d have to leave now. She asked me where I was taking her. I told her it was a surprise. She didn’t argue. In fact, she was high from something. I noticed beneath the small fridge, several squares of aluminium foil, which is often a sign that someone had been burning heroin.
As we headed west towards the hospital, Laura told me how pleased she was that she now had a chance for a new life. During the drive she shared many stories about her husband and his addiction. But each time I asked her about her own addictions and her own participation in using heroin she tried to obfuscate the truth.
As I pulled up to the hospital's A&E entrance, Laura momentarily panicked. I quickly calmed her, explaining that I wasn’t kidnapping her and wasn’t going to try to admit her. I told her I just wanted her to meet a ‘friend.’ She asked me if it was someone I ‘visited,’ which I took to mean in the context of the way I visit her. I responded truthfully, no.
I asked at reception for Rachel. It was just a few short minutes before she came out. Rachel hugged me, which was nice because I noticed that Laura seemed to calm somewhat by seeing this gesture. I introduced Laura to Rachel as my friend. Rachel asked if we wanted to go in now. I said, ‘yes, please.’
Laura asked where we were going. I only said again that I wanted her to meet someone. Before Laura could respond we were standing directly outside the curtains surrounding the dead girl’s bed. I parted the curtains and gestured for Laura to step in.
I had thought about this moment as I drove to get Laura and I asked myself whether I was doing the right thing. I tried to imagine how much further the process of rigor mortis would have progressed over the hour I had been away. It was sufficient.
The girl’s mouth had expanded wide open, as if she were gagging. Her left eye was open and her right eye slightly so. Her body had ever so slightly begun to arch. Her head was turned in such a way as if she were looking directly at Laura as she stepped inside the curtained area.
I watched Laura’s face intently. At first I could she was trying to comprehend what she was seeing in the darkened area and her mouth opened to form the words to say ‘hello.’ But before she could utter a sound, the realisation overwhelmed her. She recoiled in fright. I stood directly beside Laura with my left arm behind her so she couldn’t back away from the bedside.
I introduced Laura to ‘Tina.’ I explained that Tina was a heroin addict ‘just like her.’ And tonight she died from taking heroin. I lifted the side of the bed sheet to reveal the girl’s arms. ‘You see, Laura,’ as I pointed to the girl’s arm, ‘she has track marks, collapsed veins, and rotting flesh just like yours.’ I left her arm uncovered and then pulled hard at the bottom of the sheet to reveal the girl’s ankles. ‘And you see, Laura, she has the same track marks that you have on your ankles and arms.’
Laura was trembling and her mouth was locked open, almost as if she were cruelly mocking the dead girl. But it was more of a silent scream. I told Laura to sit down in the chair beside the girl. She did as I told her, but then instantly jumped up when she realised that the girl’s head was tilted in her direction, as if death were staring directly at her.
I told Laura that I was going to step out for a moment to see the nurse and I’d be right back. Again Laura jumped up. She didn’t want me to leave her there. But I spoke to her forcefully and told her to ‘stay seated until I return.’
Rachel had been standing at the nursing station. I don’t think she had been able to hear what transpired. But I went out to thank her. I asked if I could come back later this week to arrange her mum’s memorial. She agreed that it had been too hectic a night and she wasn’t in the mindset to do it now.
I went back to Laura. Before I moved the curtain back, I heard Laura sobbing. As I opened the curtain Laura turned from looking at the girl to me. She asked me why her mouth and eyes were open. I explained that this was often a natural process of death. She asked if ‘Tina’ could see her. I told her not in the way she imagined, but yes. And I added that she could hear her as well if she would care to say anything to her.
Laura started crying again. She repeatedly spoke to the girl saying how sorry she was. I asked her if she would like to say a prayer for ‘Tina.’ Laura said she didn’t know how and she had never read ‘any book’ about saying prayers. I told her God never uses books anyway – He’d much prefer her to say what she felt. I asked Laura if she would like me to step out. She said ‘please.’
It wasn’t intentional, but I did hear what Laura said. Her tear-choked voice carried through the empty darkened resuscitation suite.
As I drove her back to her room, Laura asked me what would now happen to ‘Tina.’ I explained that ‘Tina’s’ mother was dead and as best I understood, the hospital had no one further to contact regarding her death. She pressed me to tell her what would become of Tina.
I asked Laura why she wanted to know. She said she was afraid that ‘Tina’ would be forgotten about. I asked her if she thought she’d forget ‘Tina.’ Laura looked at me with a mixture of incredulity and anger. She blurted out ‘I know why you brought me here tonight.’ I asked her ‘why did I then, Laura?’
She began crying harder than she had at hospital. I pulled over and stopped the car. I quietly asked Laura if this was how she saw her life ending. She wept uncontrollably. She said she was frightened. – and that ‘what I made her see was the worst thing she had ever seen in her life.’ I told her that all I had done this evening was to hold up a mirror for her.
She wept bitterly and between her sobs she kept repeating that she didn’t want to die like this. I asked her what would ‘we’ need to do to make certain this didn’t happen. Laura said she needed to ‘see someone.’ I asked her if I could take her to a drug addiction centre the following morning. She said ‘please.’
It was close to 2am when I dropped Laura off. I told her I’d come for her at 9. I sent her a text message at 0830 this morning, reminding her that I was coming to collect her. When I arrived she was standing outside waiting for me.
As we made the long drive to the drug crisis centre, Laura asked me if I would sit with her when she first spoke with someone. I promised her that I would.
I should imagine when someone is trying to save a sinking ship, they’re not going to bicker about how the ship is saved, as long as it remains above water. I’m not necessarily at odds with myself over the methodology I’ve used in this instance, especially as I believe, without reserve, that Laura’s life is in precarious balance. Only time will tell how far into the abyss she has fallen.
And now, I can find hope believing that ‘Tina’s’ life has left a powerful memory for good, rather than sorrow.
Labels: emergency help for someone addicted, Father Bill Haymaker, helping with addictions, ways to get off drugs, words of comfort for addicted people, words to say to someone who is addicted to drugs