The Business of Dying by Christina Knowles

seidoryu       As an atheist, I shudder at the thought of a chaplain at my bedside when it’s my time to die. However, today I was privileged to listen to a truly profound and helpful chaplain guide someone close to me on “the business of dying.”

Shortly after being informed that she had very little time left, the chaplain arrived, and instead of a long dissertation on theology, endless prayers, or reading cliché bible verses, he merely accepted her word that she was confidant of her eternal life and moved on to the harder part, the present.

At first, I was concerned. He seemed pushy and inconsiderate. When he asked her what she was feeling, and she replied, “It is what it is,” he pushed, aggressively.

He led her through each possible emotion, explored them, talked about them, and acknowledged their validity. He said it was okay to grieve your own life, the disappointment, the lost time, the things that you will never be able to do, time with loved ones stolen. He asked about fear, not fear of the afterlife, but fear of the actual dying and fear about leaving loved ones behind. He validated all emotions someone might feel and empathized.

Next, he asked her what she wanted. He said she didn’t have to answer now, and that it didn’t have to be one big thing, but that she should think about that every morning when she wakes up and ask, “What do I want today?” He explained that he meant real things, good things like asking for a hug or asking to have a conversation about a memory or about what someone means to her. He encouraged her to go deep inside herself everyday to really get in touch with her heart’s desire. He said to not let these things go by undone. If she needs to say something to someone or just relive a memory with someone, ask for it. If she needed closure, to fix a relationship, or address a regret, she should have that conversation.

The chaplain told her that part of the business of dying was to celebrate the life she’s lived. He said to reflect on her life’s accomplishments, things she was particularly proud of, things she enjoyed, and things that she did right. He told her she lived a life that deserved acknowledgement.

He ended his counsel by asking her if she wanted anything else from him. She asked him to pray with her. He laughingly responded, “Is that what you want, or do you think that’s what I want to hear?” She said she did want it, and his prayer was beautiful, specifically saying that she was in control of her life and how she lived it to her last breath.

He was brilliant and profound, comforting and respectful. I thought, This is what a chaplain should do. So many times, I’ve heard the well-meaning pastor spout clichés and seemed more concerned with reinforcing religious beliefs than dealing with real emotions and concrete issues. I always cringed at the shallow recitation of the typical platitudes. Finally, a chaplain who knows what to say to the dying, what they need to know in their last days, what not to forget in the days to come. The compassionate and practical advice I heard today cut through all the nonsense of avoidance. People don’t need vapid dictums when they face the end of their lives; they need something real, something meaningful and honest to go about the business of dying. –Christina Knowles

photo via seidoryu.com

Signs of Life, A Memoir in Poems

I have always wanted to write my memoirs, the story of how I got from there to here. Perhaps, I just need to explain it to myself or to those I love. Perhaps, I need to leave a legacy for those who knew me after I’m gone. At any rate, I find that whenever I try to express my deepest feelings and my most profound experiences, I do it through poetry, so here it is, my memoir in poems.

This collection of eighty-one poems is a series of reflections of moments throughout a life lived. Some are joyful, some tragic, but all are heartfelt and real.

“Christina Knowles is a poet who is not afraid of delving into the inner world of symbolism, emotion, and dream imagery. Signs of Life is a revealing journey into the soul, a look at the inner self to which we can all relate.”

Available in paperback and Kindle Edition on Amazon.com. 

img_1216

 

Book Review: Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep by Christina Knowles

Doctor_SleepI finally read Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s eagerly awaited sequel to The Shining, published thirty-six years after the first, with a mixture of anxiety and anticipation. The Shining is one of my favorite novels, and how could a sequel live up to something revered as one of the all-time best horror novels ever published? I decided it didn’t have to. I would read it and enjoy it on its own merits. So how did it fare, in my humble opinion?

Well, it was wonderful getting to know grown up Danny Torrance, now known as Dan, or to his co-workers at the hospice where he is now employed, as Doctor Sleep because of his uncanny ability to calm dying residents and guide them to the great beyond in a peaceful and pleasant way.

Yes, Dan has some problems, and at first he was a little less than likable. I was, initially, repelled by what Dan had become, an apple fallen a little too close to the family tree, but he soon won my heart with his remorse, selflessness, and compassion.

I also adored the little girl whom Dan befriends, Abra Stone. In fact, I marveled at King’s ability to write from the perspective of a pre-teen girl, but it was superb.

This novel, although strange and fascinating, was not at all scary like The Shining, and it didn’t need to be. It was so much more than that. It was about recovery and redemption, realistically told in an insanely surreal world. It continued the main story in The Shining, the story of alcoholism and facing the worst demon of all, our weakest and unlovely selves. I reconsider. Maybe it was a little scary.

But mostly, it was heartfelt, poignant even. More than once I teared up during this novel. I find that I like this new softer side of King, the King of the post near-death “accident” seems to create characters that feel a little deeper, are more expressive, kinder. Perhaps, it was the experience, or maybe he is mellowing with age, but I’m fine with it. Doctor Sleep delivers on weird with his descriptive immersion into horrifyingly evil minds, at the same time as showing us that there are still really good people out there, even in the midst of evil, and that even when the evil is in us, we can overcome it. Five out of five stars.—Christina Knowles

Read my review of The Shining.

Alive by Christina Knowles

Signs of Life“Alive”

I am alive

Once merely lingering, undeniably,

Through the journey I have thrived

Pain dwells in me

Eight swords still mark the space

But blinded I am bound

To this time and place

I am alive

The searing burn inside

Recognizes the offense

An ache that won’t subside

But still I am alive

The recompense is joy

Laughter that resides

Deep down, a place I thought destroyed

It’s true; I am alive

Excitement of uncertain futures

The Wheel of Fortune turns

Rumors in the cards discerned

Afflicted by the Sword

With dreams that have yet to die

Yes, I am alive

An unlikely state from past mistakes

The Hanged Man now is loved

A Lover, he becomes

Beholden, he succumbs

Driven to survive

Indeed, I am alive

Drifting down a nameless road

The signs of life abound

A Fool’s errand, I know

All around me, a presage

I am a life compelled

A glimmer, just a vestige

The hidden hazards of the Moon

In the Sun dispelled

Still Death, a knight, rides close

Morose, I journey forward

Simply because I am alive

A portent of the end of days

But days till then I’ll spend

With Justice, who sits on her throne

Her sword alone is raised

This is the company I keep

The path I have embraced

While still I am alive

Further down the quiet road

I stride in hopes to find

A way to lift the load

To fix the broken kind

The chaos in the sky

Death about to die

I’ll doctor it the best I can

And breathe into it life

For all around the signs are there

And I am still Alive—Christina Knowles (2016)

Photo: Signs of Life by Christina Knowles. Copyright 2016.

Tomb by Christina Knowles

Blackened MausoleumDo you mean to kill me slowly?

Breath by breath

Smothering me with every withheld word

Every silent occasion

Your absence screams

What you won’t say

Do you want to break me,

Utterly destroy me?

Do you even realize

Your words unspoken

Choked down and swallowed

Suck the air from the world?

Suffocating, desperate for relief

Sliding, grasping at anything

To assuage the pain that unexpectedly leaps

Into my consciousness

Pain that lies dull and dormant

Until the stillness arrives

Do you want to empty me?

Hollow me

Till I blow away in the wind?

Or turn me to vacant stone?

My slow transformation

Unexplained

In the darkness, I will the coldness to take over

Till I’m the tomb and not the body

—Christina Knowles (2015)

All the Heaven and Hell by Christina Knowles

Lightly falling snowflakesFlowers in Hair

The loving eyes of my old dog

The smile of a baby

Red and gold leaves scattered on the ground

Glistening wet petals in the morning sun

This is all the heaven I will ever know

Holding the hand of my mother as she leaves me

Burning tears of loss, the indescribable pain in my chest

Holding my best friend as she takes her last breath

Angry words from a trusted mouth

Grave news from a doctor’s chart

This is all the hell I will ever know

The soft glow of a crackling fire

Holding hands with the best man I’ve ever known

The swell of love his gaze makes me feel

The time spent with my closest friends

Laughing until my stomach hurts

This is all the heaven I will ever know

The anxiety of deadlines

The crushing weight of responsibilities

Debts to pay and artificial worries

The helplessness of age

The loneliness of loss

This is all the hell I will ever know

Pain and depression

Joy and the sweetness of love

Anger and frustration

Comfort and peace

Gratitude for all of this life

This is all the heaven and hell I will ever know—Christina Knowles (2015)

Photo snagged from Pinterest

The Stone by Christina Knowles

Dark-Forest-19On a hillside hidden

Among the knotty pine

Lies a weathered stone of red

Sharp edges softened over time

Still the weight of it remains

Its sturdy strength sublime

A signpost to find your way

A monument, a shrine

Its presence is a constant

When confused among the pine

Kindly it waits to comfort

And listen for a time

To any who lose their way

To rest and realign

It suffered every storm

And every passerby

Patiently awaiting

The elements to redefine

Its next stage of existence

Smoothed and refined

And finally dissolve it home again

Sinking ever to recline

—Christina Knowles (2015)

Photo snagged from theartmad.com

“Lucky” by Christina Knowles

LuckyEverything leads to tragedy

It seems to compound

But in the in-between

I am lucky

Fate smiles smugly

While I frown

But in the darkness, I am found

I am lucky

A little fussy

But I am bound

To this life

I am lucky

Heartfelt and enigmatic

I am rife

With friends all around me

I am lucky

In tenderness abounding

I swim through the sorrow

Willingly pursuing tomorrow

I am lucky

The knell has sounded

To set me free

But I ignore it, naturally

With troubles I am hounded

But I am lucky

In the midst of falling leaves

I am surrounded

An abundance of tears deceives

I’m inclined to opine

But still I’m lucky

Flowers lose their petals

The foundation finally settles

But all around me I am grounded

In love, I’m astounded

And I’m so lucky

There’s a chance to amend

Love enough to spend

And I am lucky

Between the calm and the calamity

Lies the beauty

The artistic and the altruistic

Human duty; I’m in for a pound

Yet finally unbound, I am free

To be fairly optimistic

After all

I am so lucky.

–Christina Knowles (2015)

Photo snagged from newartcolorz.com

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: