“…in the muck, in the scum of things, there always, something sings.”
~ Michelle Isaac from her song Something Sings
I spent July 15th – 20th in the hospital in Ithaca, New York.
A monthlong on-again, off-again headcold was brewing into pneumonia unbeknownst to me, and the pleurisy that abruptly awakened me at 5:30 am on Sunday the 15th was so painful and gripping my left upper chest and back that I feared I was having a heart attack. Various complications, including fevers spiking daily, kept me in the hospital longer than usual for pneumonia…
After the initial fear for my life–not a heart attack, not a clot on my lung, and later, not MRSA…, I found myself settling into an amazing experience of holy refuge and practical, hands-on love everywhere–through the ongoing expressions of support, care, blessing, and prayer from facebook when I posted to my friends that I was in need, and through the daily, attuned attention and ministrations of the nurses, aides, and doctors on 4 North, where I was convalescing.
I felt so much gratitude and appreciation for all the care I was receiving. Even in the depth of pain on every breath, even in the fear of the unknown, even in the sadness of this happening–without any effort on my part, love brimmed over like a waterfall from my heart, flowing over me and over others.
Why not see the good in everyone and be kind? I was feeling so supported, so I kept letting people know how much I appreciated their kindness. This created a beautiful reciprocity of kindness meeting kindness.
After many meals, I spontaneously wrote a thank you note on the slip of paper that had my order on it. Each day, I got a menu to choose from for the next day, and on the back was the typical “My Plate” diagram from the US government about healthy meal proportions. One day, I wrote a note and drew an arrow to the “My Plate” and said I wasn’t able to fulfill my need for vegetables at breakfast. Within a half an hour of taking my tray, someone from the kitchen came up and asked me what I’d like and from then on, I had a salad with every breakfast! Kindness meets kindness.
I was able to truly receive the care offered to me–-all the little things that the nursing staff did as a matter of course to care for me, and all the things I asked for. I let them care for me in ways that in the past I would have apologized for. I would have maybe not even asked for fear of being needy. But by asking, I got to receive their care and love.
Food is healing! As I ate my very simple, mostly protein- and veggie-based meals, I felt their life-giving power. How chewing made the vitality of the food accessible to my body. How eating slowly and reverently helped me receive the bounty of each bite. How I never felt like I had to be a “clean-plate clubber” and eat it all, so I could listen to what was the perfect amount in the moment for my healing.
The view of the lake. I was so lucky to get a room that had a view of the lake and to be in the bed by the window so I could see it! As soon as I could, I asked my care team to turn my bed so that, instead of the TV, I had a view of Lake Cayuga. The “leaping greenly spirit of trees and the blue true dream of sky” along with the water saved me (e.e. cummings)! I could feel their life force blessing and healing me. It was so odd–they said no-one had ever asked for this before!
Grief. Yes, grief is part of the gift, too. Since I was sick in my lungs, I realized grief might be a component. In addition to grieving being so sick, and missing not only my family gathered for the wedding, but also the concert I was supposed to sing and all my friends I was going to see that week in the Hudson River Valley, I found a well of grief that still needed to be felt about losing my brother in 2016. I let myself grieve his loss–that we could not save him, that he was so unhappy, that this was how turned out. The tears, the deep feelings helped me release another layer of this painful loss.
People, relationships, connections matter more than work! Joy matters! Singing! Laughter! Time for pleasure! Work is not the most important thing to prioritize in the day. This was so evident while I was lying around healing, receiving all the love from facebook friends, from the Unit, from my family and friends. It’s the heart-full connections that were healing. I barely touched the book I had with me that was related to work. I instinctively reached for the connection…
Asking sincere questions creates real connection. I loved learning about the lives of my caregivers–the nurses, aides, and Brendalee, who was in charge of the meals and kept coming to check in with me.
I found out Brendalee keeps chickens, pigs, and rabbits for her grandchildren so they will have a chance to have animals in their lives. In her home, there’s a basket by the door and everyone puts their cell phone in when they enter in order to have a chance at real contact. Her love of cooking is passed along to her 4 yro granddaughter through cooking together in the kitchen and through her service at the hospital. What a gift to feel the heart connection of so many common values and desire to be of service under our very different exteriors. We both felt filled by this connection.
Spaciousness around everything. Nowhere to go. “Nothing to do or undo, nothing to force, nothing to want, nothing is missing” (Venerable Lama Gendun Rinpoche). There was so much time for rest. I saw how all the things I love and all the ways I want to live create stuff to do and track and manage–they take up time. I want time in my life–to rest, to connect with friends, to sit with tea and take in beauty, to sing, to pray, to heal, to journal… to be. And NOT just in the hospital! 🙂
Singing gives me life. Even when I was sick, in pain, and had almost no breath from the pneumonia, humming or lightly singing a healing song carried me. The tune and words lifted me, bringing conscious intention for my mind, attuned contact with my heart–whether grief or joy or longing, and holy vibration to my body. Singing accompanied, companioned, and inspired me, surrounded me with the healing life force of my bodysoul. The primary song I sang as I did my “rounds,” (walking around the unit) was originally a birthing song, and I changed some words to birth my healing:
I am trusting my body to carry me through carrying you to me, I am trusting.
My body wide open, the veil lifts, my heart is filled, my mind it empties.
Wide open, I am wide open.
Welcome breath into my lungs, welcome flow into my muscles, welcome joy into my organs, welcome qi into my cells.
This song is meant to be sung as a round.
Listen below for the separate parts I sang to save my life.
(A birthing song, learned from Kathar Grant, who learned it at the gathering, Singing Alive. I changed the words to make it a birthing-my-healing song while in the hospital with pneumonia.)