I was taking a news hiatus last week when a friend’s email came, telling me that my favorite poet, Mary Oliver, had died. What an important voice to be extinguished!
The first time I ever heard a poem by Mary Oliver was 1993 in a spiritual study group I was in, when one of the women shared the poem Wild Geese aloud. My dear brother Michael was very ill at the time, and hearing these lines –
“Tell me your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on…”
…struck me right in my heart. When someone you love is dying, it can feel as if the world stops turning, or that it should stop turning. But, as the poet goes on to say, with infinite gentleness and wisdom,
“Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how...
Image above: Mary J. Labyak at the NHPCO Gala 2009
"I think hospice is the greatest single honor that has ever occurred in my life. To have the opportunity to be a part of building something that makes such a difference to society. And I think what is really important is that hospice is a dream that’s come true, and a dream that’s grown beyond all of our expectations.
In terms of values, it’s a dream that didn’t come out of academia, it didn’t come out of research, it didn’t come out of organized medicine. It was the dream of people themselves that had lost a loved one and simply wanted to reach out and see if they could make that path different for others. And it was above all about human dignity, no matter how long life was.
And I think it has grown so much not because we were smart in building it, but because we had the capacity to listen to what our patients and communities needed and to...