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It's my birthday month. February 5th to be exact. Born on a Friday at 3:10 a.m. in a suburb of Bugtussle, KY. I am the first child of Virginia and Joe Creek. I am the oldest born to two youngest in their sibling order. For those of you familiar with family of origin studies and sibling position, you will get an immediate sense of the many opportunities I have had in this position with my family, life, and profession. It generally comes with the characteristics taken on as the: responsible one, caretaker, caregiver, dependable, bossy, etc. Here are some resources for your own fun. You can Google sibling position and read for the rest of your life as well
My birthday is a time of traditional celebration, including the entire month of February. It is also a time of intense reflection for me—a looking back, learning, evaluating, re-evaluating, clarifying goals, giving appreciation and thanx, and planning for INCREASE in all things that matter to me. As you join me in celebration, I invite you to celebrate YOU too. Your life, your accomplishments, your breakthroughs (that likely felt like breakdowns), your letting goes, your transformation, your new patterns, new attitudes, new habits, even the challenges and failures that were necessary for your own awakening and salvation and that direct us back to options, to SELF, and to God, your source.
This time of end is also a time of endings. As comes with discernment, evaluation, and planning, there are things and ways of being that naturally shift, move away, and get replaced with the new. It is also a time to continue to make with the way of life, truth of life, reality of life. We don't have to like it or love it or agree with it or certainly NOT condone it. We however, don't have to live bound so tightly and heavily in it as victim either. As we say goodbye to whatever it is, our loved ones, pets, health, agility, mobility, professions, relationships, people, dreams, and even more, we are naturally born again and will bloom again in the perfect order of what is. I find this arena of non-attachment less clear, often sticky and slippery in my humanness. To embrace this area takes some real work. I've primarily given up embracing it and found a real liberation in "this is simply what is."
We are born and designed to be in relationships, emotionally bound, and connected, both in our families, and our chosen or assigned life families. This includes many souls over a lifetime and we naturally get very bonded, connected, attached, and dependent in some ways on these emotional units. It also carries many opportunities for hurts, misunderstandings, grudges, and chronic anxiety that develop when we don't address them.
A close friend, Annie, recently lost her dear cat, Max. He was quite a character, this Max. Although we never met in person, he was very vocal in the background of mine and Annie's phone conversations and online study sessions. We had somewhat adopted Max as the group pet. As a group facilitator, I actually took some heat about the "meowing" in the backgrounds of the calls. I didn't mind. I enjoyed it. I believed Max was contributing. On New Year's Day, Max suddenly and without cause became severely ill and had to be euthanized the same day.
That sure looks like an ending. Grief however sets its own course. We cannot know where it will take us, how deep, how long, or what affects we are to experience.
In my patterned way as "oldest" responsible one, I want to fix, rescue, ease, caregive, caretake, make better, get sensible, move on, bring understanding to situations, particularly painful and stressful ones.
While I don't really have the power to do any of that, I have learned that just showing up, offering, praying, sending a note or card, a meaningful text, or email seems integral for me. Without presuming to know what they must be going through, I can take action just the same. I don't know what I could possibly do to help, and I do what makes sense to me. I don't have any idea what to say and I will call them and wait for the words. And, the thing is... No one does. There is no magic formula of care and concern, words, and deeds that will make a terrible thing better for this person you love.
The death of a pet, child, spouse, the cancer diagnosis, the divorce, the job loss, the debilitating accident, the incarcerated daughter, the mentally ill family member... I can't fix it. Very often, not even a professional can fix it—not a doctor, not a lawyer, not a minister or a counselor or a financial consultant or a mechanic. None of these hold the key to vanishing this awfulness, and that is why it's experienced as a crisis and not just a bad day.
There is no one right thing to say or do; but there are always meaningful things to say or do.
Call. “I don’t know what to say” is no reason to drop out of someone’s life when stuff gets hard. “I’m thinking of you” or “I just wanted to check in with you” will suffice as an opener.
Send a card. Or a text. Or a Facebook message. Perhaps a smoke signal. You do you, but a word of comfort or solidarity is always appropriate and appreciated. This way, the person can respond to you (or not) at their leisure.
Take Food. In Bugtussle, we run over to your house with sausage and biscuits and then later with tater salad and banana pudding. Nowadays, you have so many other options. Pick up a prepared meal from the grocery store, or send a gift card to a favorite restaurant. Also, maybe think smaller. A meal might not be practical in some situations, but homemade bread or a fruit basket might be just the thing.
Provide a service. Granted, a whole-house cleaning is an extreme option. Perhaps hire a cleaning service. Pick up their kids from school. Shovel some snow. Walk their pets. Drive them.
Share reading material. Something that you found helpful/uplifting when you were going through a hard time, or a completely brainless escape read that a person could enjoy while sitting in a hospital waiting room or in the deafening silence of home.
Empathize. Don’t share horror stories. It’s a fine line, especially if you have lived through a similar ordeal. It can be done gracefully, as long as you are mindful.
See the whole person. People in crisis tend to nest in mainly because everywhere they go, people want to talk about their awful situation—and nothing else. I’d imagine it’s pretty exhausting to walk into a crowd and have to answer 100 questions about death of Max, chemo, or divorce lawyers, or rehab, or whatever. I know it comes from a good place, but remember that they are still a whole person. A conversation about baseball or beer or some neighborhood gossip might actually be a blessed invitation to some normalcy or a welcome distraction.
Invite them to stuff. Be understanding if they say no, but give them the opportunity to turn you down. Never assume people “won’t feel like” hanging out.
Give a gift. Who doesn’t love presents? In a particularly difficult time, a care package or small gift can go a long way. You might also consider a gift in memory or honor of someone. Include them and the loved ones in a newsletter. ☺
Just show up. When in doubt, just be there. Sit at the kitchen table or at the hospital; show up for the moving day (all manner of crises often perpetuate a moving day); be there for the court date, or the last day of treatment, or the burning of the exes’ stuff.
Any way you shake it, this is the ministry of presence. Sometimes it’s all we’ve got. But it’s usually enough. Anyway you shake it, this is my ministry. A ministry of presence. A ministry of daring to be the first to do something. A ministry of willingness to do it wrong instead of being paralyzed in fear and doing nothing, worried about doing it wrong.
For reference, in the last week, I have witnessed, the mental demise of a beloved young 24 year-old daughter of a friend, a painful divorce and custody worries, a 73 year-old minister who was voted out of the ministry without any notice, a 69 year-old was notified her company has sold and they "don't know" about the future, a young beloved sister of a friend moved to hospice and died within a week, an 18 year-old leaving home without notice or trace of where he is, broken bones in hospital parking lots on the way to work in an ICU, broken hips while volunteering, this accompanies, open heart surgeries, rehab, hospice care, diagnoses of a multitude of flavors, and dead cats. In addition, the news says millions of Americans are without health insurance again. What will I do? What will they do?
More importantly, I have witnessed and experienced the stamina, resilience, and fortitude of the human spirit that continues to renew, enliven, and strengthen me to fulfill my calling, to minister. A verb. This very thing is my inspiration to stay the course, be some earthly good, and understand that I may never sit in the shade of the trees I plant, BUT someone will.
In the case of Annie and Max, I called her regularly, she didn't call back. I sent her a card, she told me yesterday, she had not opened it. "I can't open it", she said. I provided the Silent Unity 24 hour prayer line, she texted thank you and that it had been most comforting and helpful to her. I reminded her of the monthly group call and she didn't join in. I believed the love, energy and support of the call was just what she needed.
None of these offerings, invites, gifts, calls, empathy and presence for Annie came with any attachments. That, folks, is real transformation in me. A miracle. A New Year's miracle. A Birthday miracle.
We talked yesterday at her request and she later stated that what helped her most was my question to her, "Were you shocked at how hard it has been?" That provided the opening for her to talk about him and the shock of how deeply she was grieving. After some tears, laughter, and authentic sharing, I told her Max lives in eternity with me. She says she has a sense of him being on the lap of her dear son who passed a few years ago and that brought her comfort. I asked permission to include the story and photo of Max in the newsletter. Here you go.
"Max" --- Maxwell Q. Hairington
This all lines up with an "activation", "inspiration", and call to action I feel deep within my being. I feel compelled in the best ways to continue doing what I can, and being in presence more and more. This inspiration was further catapulted by watching the movie, Hidden Figures. RUN RUN RUN to see it.
Thank you Annie for living wholeheartedly and true to self. You're a teacher for me. Thank you Max for chiming in whether you were invited or not. I have a sense you will be teaching me for a long time.
Beginnings and endings—a full human spectrum. As you reflect on what and who you love, let them know. As you remember that all things are truly impermanent, treasure what is and the sweetness of the shared journey.
Join me celebrating all of life—those here and those past. Think of me on a beach in Florida with fun, sun, friends, and more counting of my blessings. Come join me in the Florida workshops during February and March. I am back in the Kentucky/Ohio/Indiana area in April and May, just in time for the jonquils, tulips, hyacinths, rosebuds, dogwoods, and the myriad of proof that life is eternal.
“Nature reveals to us that is true. Cycles. Eternity.”
Join Martha at any of these open events: www.marthacreek.com#calendar