Echo – July 1993

(written in 2012)
This morning, I woke with the sense of an experience early in 1993, vividly alive within me.

I almost heard those words again: “Will you hold my hand?”
I was working in a Nursing Home, where a lady in her 80s said them to me, one night, at the beginning of my shift. I knew that she had refused a leg amputation the doctors had said she needed to have in order to live. and she had returned that afternoon from a visit to her husband’s at their home. I had just helped her on and off a bed pan, so that was not what she was referring to.  – I did indeed come to hold her hand, early the next morning, after I had finished my other duties. I came and sat with her. She did not say anything. I held her hand. She breathed slowly. And then she breathed out and was gone.

Round the World,
Simply No Where –


2021 – a sense of awe and gratitude is still with me; a sense that only this kind of gift,of grace if you will renders me free – an adult.

In the original text I mentioned I was working in a Nursing Home – a senior care assistant with a postgrad. qualification in Social Work (major in Adult Education). I had begun 8 years earlier a period of independent research in Intercultural Spiritual Theology that would eventually last 20 years and end with my second MA and the feedback from some senior staff at the RC College that gave me the award that my dissertation included elements that met the criteria for a PhD – namely being an ‘original contribution to the body of knowledge’. Of course, I did not know that then. I hardly know it now. Was I underselling myself twice over? Partly perhaps but in 1985 I knew that I needed to find a way to earn a living that left me time and energy to pursue my studies, and in 1987 I found a Home that paid me reasonably well, considering the role, and fitted with a liberal human ethos. Working nights gave me more free time also to travel than I would have had in any 9-5 job with all sorts of social pressures, team dynamic and all that’s related.


I did not fully understand my need to work on my own, but I followed it.

This happened in Germany, 4 years after the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the experiment that had been the GDR, as Est Berlin writer Stephen Hermlin would have said.

shock waves not reaching

no denial either


~ by Barbara S on November 8, 2012.

4 Responses to “Echo – July 1993”

  1. This memory came back to me on the day I was invited to attend a meeting at the local prison about setting up a community chaplaincy/resettlement project.
    The felt sense of clarity being breathed into me did not leave me all day, so the meeting went well and without much of the tension I am familar with.
    In the film about James Baldwin’s life, one of his friends who was at his bedside with him when Jimmy died, says “he took us with him, and when we came back he was gone” – a graceful and liberating experience.
    It seems to me now I am alright if or when or as long as I can maintain that inner clarity or freedom. It is difficult to put into words – it is at the same time a feeling of being hollowed out while serving a greater intention (beyond anybody’s will power though) while also sustaining a sense of an inner Presence – beyond any deity.
    The Swiss Luterhan Pastor Kurti Marti wrote in a poem
    “Du – uns leicht ins Zellengewebe erhoeht.”
    You – raised ever so gently, in our bodies.

  2. In this act of holding the lady’s hand, as she had asked me to, I responded to the honour of her asking me. A breathless love, and being present over-ruled and other considerations. Meaning and no-meanign were one. In awe and gratitude.

  3. My dashboard calendar tells me, this is the first haibun I published on this blog. It does not represent the first of the Moments in my life as I try to catch them with these short poetic essays. I borrow the method from Basho while not claiming his expertise and beauty of writing. It seems the best way of catching something that can’t really be put into words, yet desires to be shared and has made a lasting impact on the author. As soon as I as much as read a key word of any one of the pieces – I am right back there… breathing deep with a renewed sense of inner freedom.

  4. Also borrowed is the idea of koan – a paradox that explains something of the inner freedom, always already there – yet rarely fully lived… koan, in my case without Buddhism and without religion.

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