Magazine article Humane Health Care International

Infusions of Soul

Magazine article Humane Health Care International

Infusions of Soul

Article excerpt

It was a moving, if sobering, experience to read and reflect upon the commentaries of N. Michael Murphy and John Thomas elsewhere in this issue (p. 12,10). We are said to live in an age of materialism, but nowa-days we don't even believe in (or respect) things any more. Many of us don't seem to have anything or anyone in which or on whom to put our faith. We try, as it were, to stand in midair. In his commentary, John Thomas looks at the quarrel between traditional religious faiths and the new "religion" of secular ethics. He is evenhanded in his assessment and, in his closing reflections, reminds us that (whatever our faction) much more unites than divides us, and each of us has, in mind and heart (if we will activate them), the resources for successful cooperative living. The next question may be: "Why are we content, as a society, to live in such confusion when the way forward is clearly marked?" Dr. Thomas's essay seems tinged with sadness, as if he were remembering the oft-quoted words of that family physician/poet, William Carlos Williams: "It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably everyday for lack of what is found there."

One of us (JOG) was privileged to visit. St. Peter's Hospice in Albany, New York, and observe several of Michael Murphy's "family gatherings," in which he works with family members to prepare them to assist a loved one to a peaceful death. When, with effective spiritual support and guidance, its members and the dying one are prepared to surrender fully to the process, the family meeting can accomplish miracles of reconciliation, with healing and regeneration of family members, many of whom were long alienated. Thornton Wilder once said, "There is a land of the living and the land of the dead and the bridge is love." When watching Michael at his chosen work, one is struck most by the simplicity of the process. Nothing is used here that is not present (potentially) in every home, office, clinic, and hospital. The principal ingredients are careful and thoughtful preparation, deep if largely silent caring (love), obvious respect for even the least attractive of the ill and dying, and, finally, great patience -- the staff and the many volunteers believe implicitly in the process and are content to wait while it unfolds. Already, in many of our palliative care centers, nurseries, and other areas, these "infusions of soul," as Michael Murphy calls them, are bringing comfort, peace, and often healing to the dying and their families. …

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