Spiritual Direction Toward the End of Life: Looking Back with Generosity
Many older people in the twenty-first century have something that their cohorts in previous generations did not have: the time and opportunity to look back and re-frame their life, focusing their attention on the path it has taken and what meaning they find in it now.
Whether a person is in retirement and still healthy or find themselves hampered by increasing physical and cognitive limitations, it can be rewarding to tell one’s own story in a way that invites a fresh perspective and time to ponder the still-baffling questions about what has happened over the years and why.
So many of our memories can be stuck in a repetitive, automatic recording of events that our loved ones are sick of hearing about them. What about the stories underneath those stories? What about the relationships involved that were important for a time and have vanished? What about the mysteries of important and buried moments in our lives that may still cause us bewilderment and regret?
In the weeks before my mother died, hospice volunteers asked her to consider the unfinished business she might still have with us daughters. This is one way of looking at the process. But another is to ground your life in the unfolding of history, to weave in the political and social changes and eruptions of the time and how they figured into the decisions made and the path forward taken.
Some people never want to look into these pockets of our past, but I have found much value in shedding light on what has been simply forgotten or has been covered up intentionally and hidden from the light of day. Many of the particular people who figured prominently in those stories have probably died; others may have moved away. If there are still people close by that were connected to these moments in time, what good might come from taking another look with the help and perspective of time gone by?
Spiritual direction has been described as, “a long, loving look at the real.” It doesn’t seek to wrap every question and concern in a brightly colored bow; rather, it seeks to find insight and buried feelings that might be present when we look a little deeper. It can be time that honors a life lived as best it could be lived.
In the company of someone who is holding the session in love and generosity, creating a safe space and not looking to judge anyone or any part of the experience, it is amazing what a difference a little light shining on the past can make.
If you or a loved one is interested in trying spiritual direction, I would love to talk with you about it. Sometimes a one-hour session is all that is required; and sometimes several monthly sessions give a person time to listen in the intervening weeks and see what comes up to be explored.
Contact me if you are interested in exploring spiritual direction. I’d love to hear from you.