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I woke up this morning thinking about our Hospice Austin Social Workers and all the things they do for our organization, and so I wrote them this love letter to express my heartfelt appreciation. 

Dear Hospice Austin Social Workers,

I have been thinking about hope lately.  What it is.  Where it comes from.  How to access it when so much seems shrouded in chaos, uncertainty, and fear.  I have decided that, for me at least, hope is not so much a positive outlook or even a belief that everything will turn out just fine.  For me, real hope is a way of being in the world.  An embodiment of raw courage, outrageous imagination, and deep love in the face of overwhelming odds.  I can think of no other profession that is more hope-filled than yours.  Social workers are the ones who step into that breach between what is and what is possible.  You are the ones who reach across that vast chasm to make a way when it seems there is no way.  It is holy work.  And holy work is never easy.  It asks much of us, but it is noble and good. It is work that, in the words of author Jan Richardson, bears the light in unbearable times.  The work you do matters.  When you help people complete advance directives, make funeral plans, sign up for Medicaid, access financial resources so their lights will stay on, find a placement in a nursing facility, facilitate a difficult but needed conversation, help people face unresolved trauma or find words for their unspeakable grief, you ARE the face of hope for them.

If you are feeling weary, battered, and less than hope-filled right now it is not because you are doing it wrong.  It is because we are in a point in our history, I believe, when the night has seemed to go on forever and the needs are so great. It is because you have been standing in the very heart of the storm.  Today is a moment to honor you for that valiant work.

One of my ordination vows when I became a minister was to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love.  In times when it seems I cannot possibly do that for one more day, one more moment, I take a step back…or maybe two.  I rest.  I go outside.  I breathe; I slow down; I listen to my own heart.  I reach out to others who also know this work, both the cost and the breathtaking beauty of it.  And then I open myself fully to the Spirit of Love that binds everything together; the Spirit that animates us and gives us breath.   I ask that Spirit to bear me up, to breathe into me what I need; to remind me that we do not do this work alone.  We have each other and we have that mysterious something that undergirds us, giving us strength to step back into that breach and be the face of hope once more.

I want you to know that you are seen.  You are appreciated.  What you do in our organization and in the world is gorgeous and good.

In closing, I offer you this blessing by Jan Richardson called Blessed Are You Who Bear the Light. 

Blessed are you
who bear the light
in unbearable times,
who testify
to its endurance
amid the unendurable,
who bear witness
to its persistence
when everything seems
in shadow
and grief.

Blessed are you
in whom
the light lives,
in whom
the brightness blazes –
your heart
a chapel,
an altar where
in the deepest night
can be seen
the fire that
shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith,
in stubborn hope,
in love that illumines
every broken thing it finds.

~Jan Richardson~

 

Nancy McCranie
Director of Bereavement and Volunteer Services