When I practiced therapy, I reminded myself to bring intensity to my work. Every day, every hour.
Each patient was a kind of wayfarer. His journey had reached a sticking point. He was faltering with sadness, loss, or anxiety, guilt or helplessness.
A bit like a pilgrim, the searcher hoped to find a balm for the soul.
Life brings routine. We create routines to make it easier, more efficient, to avert the wasteful reinvention of our daily tasks.
But routine deadens, too. A therapist must make the work fresh.
The healer must be present, concentrate, note the body language, and not offer words far from the point, missing the point. I tried to give each meeting “life.” I didn’t always succeed. No one can, but the next time my patient visited offered another chance to join him in searching out an oasis: a green, peaceful, and certain place, where refreshment might bring renewal.
The aging of my parents brought home the recognition it always does. One never knows when the last time will be. The twilight handshake, the final moment of laughter, the embrace of someone we love.
I made sure to part from my folks with an “I love you.” Now my children and grandchildren do this with their parents and grandparents.
These parting words are never enough by themselves. The pandemic tells me so. Its voice calls out, “There is more to do.”
Why do I hear this now? Because I can’t do more, I am separated from so many, as you are. What, then, does “more” mean when the opportunity comes?
The voice did not say.
Here’s my answer.
The heartbreak of a goodbye must be balanced by delight in a hello. We must treat each new contact as a gift, greet the friend or lover, the father or a brother as though it were the first time: the moment we discovered something unique in him. Graceful, beautiful, kind — it does not matter. Strong, faithful, wise — whatever are the qualities embedded within him.
We need to try to sum up the other’s every sacrifice for us, all the touching words they said to us, their thoughts and prayers for us and approach him anew. With gratitude.
In another dreadful historical moment, Abraham Lincoln said, “we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so must we think anew, and act anew.”
The virus teaches us the day is short, no matter how long the sunshine lasts. The message is the same, regardless of the time or place. Since we do not have eternity, the moment and the people must be grasped, held close.
If we safeguard ourselves and others, and if we are lucky, a reunion yet will come.
When you see loved ones again, remember: speed to them as if it were the first time and the last time, every time.
The photos above come courtesy of Laura Hedien, a gifted and generous photographer. They are The Look and Splashes. Much more of her work can be found at: https://laura-hedien.pixels.com/
That was just beautiful Gerry!
I hope you all are doing well.
Sent from my iPhone
We are, Joni. Thank you. Hope you are good, too.
Dear Doc! I am a regular reader of your post, and this is high time for me to say “Thank You!” My theological education did not prepare me for the kind of work, ministry, and responsibilities I encounter day by day. I appreciate every practical advice; your shared experiences, and wisdom. May you realize the importance of your commitment to helping us this way, may you find satisfaction and joy in this work!
Respectfully yours; Joseph Novak, a Baptist minister in So. California
You are most kind, Reverend. You are welcome.
Such a lovely post.
Thank you, Rayne.
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Loved your post, Dr. Stein 🙂
A powerful reminder when you say: “The heartbreak of a goodbye must be balanced by delight in a hello.”
Thank you, Rosaliene.
So beautiful, Dr. S. I love the love theme. I also love the photos. Prayers that we all survive.
Thanks, glb, for your praise and tender sentiment.
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Beautifully written, Dr. Stein. I imagine you are a kind and loving husband, father, son, brother, friend, coworker, acquaintance, and finally therapist. All the people you have touched, including your peeps here, hold you dear.
Thank you, Nancy. I appreciate your praise.