What to Say When…

…someone is diagnosed with a critical illness?

…If you can’t offer hope then try silence.

…there are also realities that need to be talked about.  A simple way to present the necessary discussions about wills, funeral plans, insurance and other money concerns is simply to go in with the idea that all of these things should be done by everyone, and the sooner the better.  When I spoke to my friend about these things I suggested that the sooner these details about death were taken care of the easier it would be to get on with the business of living.  Putting it off isn’t going to scare death away but it will make it easier to deal with when I face it.

The rest of our discussion was about the wonderful gifts she has to leave behind and how she can give those gifts to her children and grandchildren, even if she lives another 20 years.  We talked about memory books, letters to write to them for special events like significant birthdays, weddings and the birth of their own children.  If she is gone they can open those gifts and feel more like she is with them and if she is still here she will be able to hand them to them herself.

OJP summer morning…Perhaps the most difficult part of the conversation and the reason my friend wanted to speak to me was about the more spiritual elements of the situation.  She wanted someone to pray for her because she didn’t know how.

It’s hard to put our own beliefs in our pocket when we are talking to people in pain but that is what must be done.  Good spiritual directors and good friends should both know how to support someone using that person’s beliefs as a guide rather than pulling out our own dogmas and religion which can invoke as much fear as they can hope.

In the case of my friend I tried to listen carefully to her heart to figure out what it really was she needed from me.  It turns out she didn’t know how to pray.  The solution was an easy one.  I simply asked what she would say to her creator or the Divine.  She told me all the things on her heart.  My answer was that she had just prayed.  What she said to me she could say to her God because he/she is only a breath away and doesn’t need fancy words or religious spectacle to hear our hearts.

An excerpt from a Blog in “Spilt Milk“, The second in a series.  The first is Article is called What Do I Say…When Someone Dies.  Used with permission by River of Hope Enterprises and Peggy Guiler.

The Jubilee Programs offer practical learning in spiritual growth, soul development and the art of spiritual direction.  The contemplative life is explored through spiritual practices including the Enneagram, integration of head/heart/body, silent retreats, holy listening in journey groups and contemplative prayer and meditation.  For more information visit the three programs:  Ontario Jubilee, Pacific Jubilee, Prairie Jubilee