I will start by saying that I am not a very religious person. I do not practice any particular faith, nor have I made a commitment to a spiritual practice. Having said that however, I do consider myself spiritual and am very drawn to many different faith practices, and the commitment people have made to them.
As a hospice nurse, one of my many blessings is the people I get to meet, and I am continually inspired by the different cultures, traditions and faiths I witness. Doing this work has opened my mind on so many levels, and I have found myself with a child-like curiosity about religion, faith, prayer, and commitment to a powerful source that brings true comfort and safety for so many. I want to learn more.
I recently sat at the bedside of a man who had a very strong faith. He carried a small prayer card with him daily and read his prayers several times a day. His wife told me that several days earlier, he could not find it and he was very upset. She said she looked in every pant pocket, under every piece of furniture, and she searched the washer, the dryer, the car, the bed and everywhere in between and could not find it anywhere. It was gone almost a week, and during that week her husband declined rapidly, with pain and restlessness that was hard to manage. Two days before he died, she went outside and looked up at the sky asking for help with finding his prayer card; she knew that he needed that to feel some sense of comfort as he started to die. As though following someone who was leading her, she walked into the house, up the stairs to his room and walked around to the other side of his bed, where she never went before, and there on the floor was his prayer card. The edges were folded, there were wrinkles in the paper and it was worn so thin you could barely read the words, but there it was. She placed the card in his hand so he could feel it. She said that while it could have been her imagination, she thought he smiled, and she felt him suddenly become calm.
I walked into his room the day the card was found. I saw it in his hand, which is when I asked his wife to share with me the significance behind him holding it. She asked me if I would read the prayers to him, which I did, and what an honor I felt with each word. I had moments where I felt that I was not qualified (for lack of a better word) to read the powerful words, but as I did, I felt them, I understood them, and I too was comforted by them. With each prayer, which I repeated three times, I watched as his breathing slowed.
He took his last breath to the prayers that had brought him so much comfort before, and I completely understood what that meant for him. It is moments like these that motivate and inspire me to continue to educate myself about the different spiritual practices so that I can one day find what works best for me.
I was raised Catholic, I went to church, I went to Catechism, and my Aunt is a nun, but none of that resonated with me. I went through all of my childhood and most of my adulthood without feeling connected to a faith that might have brought me comfort when I could have used it the most. Having said that however, I do feel a spiritual connection to the forest and to the ocean, and when I need to feel safe or comforted, the energy that I receive from the power of the waves and the strength of the trees, feels very much like what I imagine commitment to religion means to others.
Now, as I evolve further into defining who I am, I will take with me the lessons I have learned about life, through caring for those at the end of life, and I will continue to ask questions and learn until I too find something that I can connect with in the way that so many others have. And if I don’t make a commitment to a particular faith, I am okay with that as well, because I already practice the basics of all religions, which is honesty, kindness, compassion, and care for human beings as a whole.
I believe in the power of prayer, however that might resonate with you.