Midrash at Hospice with a Dog

By Joy Howard of Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.  John 14:27

A woman from church and fellow music lover, “E,” is in hospice. E is the most-lively hospice patient I’ve ever known. She told me, “I know I’m terribly ill, I do; yet I’m so at peace. Why is that? Why am I not raging?”

Me: “Well, it’s not like any of us gets to opt out of dying.”

E: “That’s right. Nobody gets out of here alive, do they? But I feel such peace! Maybe if I share my story, other people won’t rage when it’s their time to die.”

Throughout our visit we marveled at Bach’s cantatas, at the beautiful view, and the late-afternoon light. Lucy, my golden retriever, settled in for a nap on E’s bed while E held her paw.

As the sun sank, E asked, “Do you have time to do me a favor?”

I said, “Sure.” She fretted, so I added, “E, as long as I’m breathing, I have time.” E sat bolt upright in bed, eyes wide, waved her arms, and said, “Oh! Oh! Yes! Write that down! As long as I’m breathing, I have time! Yes! That’s it! Write it down!”

At the end of our visit, E wobbled into a standing position with the help of her walker. I leaned in and kissed her on the cheek to say good-bye. She apologized for not being able to hug me because she had to hang onto the walker with both hands. I said I’d be back.

She said, “Within the week! And not without Lucy!”

As Lucy and I walked back to the car, I thought about the space I had just been invited into. It was like a geological seam, this gap between E navigating the mysterious peace she feels at end of her life, and Lucy the dog, who knew what to do as soon as we crossed the threshold of the hospice.

In the Jewish tradition the word for mining this seam is midrash—exploring the story between the words.

I spent the whole afternoon in a midrash. There aren’t words to describe how it felt. However, I can share some of the story with you.

After all, as long as I am breathing, I have time.

Prayer for Peace:

Comforting God, we are thankful that many times we receive a blessing from those we come to bless. We meet you at the place where there is peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Examining God’s Call to Me and to All

Reflect on God’s call in your life. Recall particular moments when you experienced God’s presence and invitation. Write in your journal or quietly reflect on images and insights that come. How can you use your gifts for all?

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will measure my time in breaths. I will fill my time with you.

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3 Comments

  1. Beautiful post! Thank you for posting this … truly inspirational to me!

  2. Such a beautiful story! I will always remember to tell my son and grandson when they ask me if I have time to talk with them that “As long as I am breathing I have time for you.” Thank you for your message today!

  3. Jean Brandt

     /  17 April 2012

    What a beautiful story. Would that everyone facing the devastating effects of cancer could look at the end with such a positive and peaceful feeling. Thanks for sharing, Jean brandt

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