On the Effects of Last Rites

In my work as a chaplain I have been at many dying beds. I find it notable that people don’t want to call the pastor unless their Family member is really dying. Maybe they think that when the pastor’s been there, there’s no way back. You could take that as a superstition. But there’s some evidence that they may be right. I’ve seen people survive when the medical staff said they would die in the next few hours. I’ve seen one person survive for three days after the doctor told the relatives that according to brain death diagnostics the patient is already dead. I have not seen a single person survive after the pastor was there for a last prayer. I remember saying to a colleague: “I’ve always got a bad conscience. I feel as if I’m killing these people with my prayers. They all die within hours after I’ve been there.” He replied: “Oh, you as well?”
I remember being at a dying bed of an old woman. She was in coma, had an oxigene mask but still had trouble breating. There were about eight relatives around her bed, a tight-knit family clan. I spoke with them and I did a little ceremony. When I spoke the Lord’s prayer everyone spoke it with me real loud. It was quite a powerful experience. After I left the room one of the relatives said to me: “Did you see? When you came her heart rate was at 90 but during the Lord’s prayer it was at 140.” The nurse said: “It can take hours or days, we don’t know.” I remember answering: “It’s a strange thing. Mostly people die within hours after these prayers.” She left that uncommented. 15 min later I got a phone call that the lady had died and the relatives wanted to see me once again. The same nurse opened the door. “I had to think of your words”, she said.

La flor en la isla

En una pequeña isla en medio del océano extenso crecía una hermosa flor amarilla de oro. Nadie sabía cómo había llegado allí, porque en esta isla no había ninguna flor aparte de ella. Las gaviotas venían volando para contemplar este milagro con asombro. “Es linda como el sol”, decían. Los peces venían nadando. Levantaban las cabezas encima del agua para admirarla. “Es linda como un coral”, decían. Un cangrejo salió a la tierra para mirarla. “Es linda como una perla en el suelo del mar”, dijo. Y todos venían casi cada día para admirar esta flor.

Un día, cuando volvieron para contemplar la flor, se encontraron con que los pétalos dorados de la flor se habían vuelto marones y secos. “Ay de nosotros”, dijeron las gaviotas, los peces y el cangrejo. “El sol quemó nuestra flor. ¿Quién ahora nos refrescará el corazón?”. Y todos se pusieron tristes.

Pero algunos días más tarde apareció en lugar de la flor una maravillosa bola de color blanco tierno. “¿Qué es eso?”, preguntaron los animales. “Es tan blando como una nube”, dijeron las gaviotas. “Es tan ligero como la espuma de las olas”, dijeron los peces. “Es tan fino como el resplandor del sol en la arena”, dijo el cangrejo. Y todos los animales se alegraron.

En este momento un golpe de viento barrió la isla y sopló este milagro blanco dispersándolo por ella en miles de copos. “Ay de nosotros”, hablaron las gaviotas, los peces y el cangrejo. “El viento ha dispersado nuestra bola. ¿Qué alegrará nuestro ánimo ahora?” Y todos estaban tristes entonces.

Un día por la mañana, al levantarse el sol sobre la mar, allí en la luz dorada matinal relucieron cientos y cientos de hermosas flores color amarillo de oro. Entonces bailaron las gaviotas en el cielo y los peces en el agua, y el cangrejo bailó con sus amigos una danza de rueda en medio de las flores, y todos se alegraron.

(Por Stefan Hammel, traducción: Bettina Betz)

La respiration agréable

Une amie m’a appelée. Elle respirait extrêmement vite et de manière agitée et ne pouvait prononcer que quelques mots à la fois. Sa voix avait un drôle de son. Elle raconta que sa fille venait d’avoir un accident de voiture avec son bébé sur le siège arrière. Le bébé n’avait rien eu mais le SAMU avait transporté sa fille à l’hôpital car ils craignaient une fracture de la base du crâne. Elle-même avait dû rester où elle était ; elle devait garder le bébé et n’arrivait pas à savoir ce qui se passait avec sa fille. J’ai alors commencé à respirer et à parler de la même façon qu’elle et au bout d’un certain temps j’ai changé de rythme et ai ralenti peu à peu ma respiration et ma façon de parler. J’ai remarqué qu’elle me suivait instinctivement dans mon comportement et qu’elle se calmait. Sa voix sonnait claire et forte et ce qu’elle racontait maintenant sonnait plus positif qu’au début de la conversation. « Je te remercie de la façon dont tu m’as parlé », ont été ses mots quand elle termina la conversation.

Après la tempête

Pour cette histoire (l’une d’avant-hier) j’ai aussi la traduction Française…

La tempête a fait son œuvre. Dans la forêt il y a des arbres dans tous les sens. Ses troncs encombrent les chemins et les routes. Aucun voyageur ne peut y avancer. Mais une fois que la tempête est passée, le temps pour les ouvriers forestiers est arrivé. Ils dégagent les chemins avec leurs scies, enlèvent les barrières et libèrent toutes les routes, du bord extrême de la forêt jusqu’à son intime intérieur.

After the storm

I’m using this story with stroke patients, with those who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis and with traumatised persons, including certain situations of separation and berievement. Most of all, it can be useful to support persons who want to recover their memory and access to their abilities.

The storm has done its work. The trees lay criss-cross in the forest. Their trunks block paths and streets. No traveller can make progress here. But when the storm is over, then comes the time of the lumberjacks. With their saws they cut free the paths, lift away the barriers and clear all the streets, starting with the outermost edge of the forest all the way to its innermost core.

Picture book for war traumatised children by Susanne Stein

There’s a picture book for refugee children who suffered war trauma, written by my colleague Susanne Stein. It is available in German, English, Farsi (below right) and Arabic (above right). Next to a story which parents can read to their children in order to explain the experience and effects of trauma in a childlike way the book contains many helpful little tools how parents and helpers who are not themselves theapists can help the children who have witnessed and suffered violence. I find this book very, very useful, Therefore, I would like to share it with you. You will find the downloads below. Please don’t miss to visit the Website of Susanne Stein!

Everything Else

In a land in our time there lived a man, who read a book and found lots of wonderful stories therein. There were true and invented stories, experienced and pensive, enjoyable and painful stories. There were stories which contained stories, and such which were actually not stories. For every story he read, there occurred to him nearly five which he had either experienced or thought up himself. So the thought came to him, that a lot in the world was a story which could be healing for himself and others; he only needed to absorb the healing stories well and to forget the terrible ones immediately. Then he would learn which story he had used when and for what. So he organised his own stories which he knew, and which had become a help to himself and others, or could become so. Sometimes he noted it down when a new story came to his ears and sometimes when a helpful story occurred to him, he memorised it.

Then he saw before him in a picture the storystories of this life arranged in long shelves, as in a large pharmacy. And behind the counter there sat a man who had learnt to listen to himself and others. He was a master of his subjectspecialty. His talent was that he understood how to tell the right thing at the right time to himself and to those who visited him.

The Seafarer

He was a seafarer. He sailed with freight ships to different countries along the coasts of Europe, Africa and South America. I asked him if he had ever experienced a bad storm. “I have experienced many storms”, he said. “I have experienced some storms where I thought: “We will never survive this!” And he stood before me and had survived, and could tell me about the adventures he had experienced.

The Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

Sometimes clients who come to therapy describe themselves or each other as broken, as rubbish, as worthless… and sometimes they may not use such words but treat themselves and others like rubbish. Some injure themselves, some try to suicide. And possibly all of this is happening because they didn’t learn to discover that they are valuable themselves. I believe that everything in life can become valuable and can be seen as a value. Anything, even the most unuseful things in life can be utilized for making life precious. I don’t mean that this were an easy task. The contrary is true: “To turn shit into roses” (Virginia Satir) is what the Germans call “Lebenskunst”, meaning, the high art of living a fulfilled life.
This short documentary is telling a story on this art, a story on how to turn rubbish into music and rubbish lives intoproud, happy beautiful lives!
Have a wonderful day, all of you!

The Enemy’s Enemy

“The buffalo is the most dangerous animal in the bush. It is even more dangerous than the lion. A person without a weapon can perhaps survive an encounter with a lion, but a buffalo – as soon as it sees a person, it attacks!” he explained. “I have only heard of one person who survived such an encounter”, he continued. “This man saw a buffalo emerging from a thicket pounding towards him at a gallop. The man passed out from shock. When he regained consciousness, he saw a lion sitting on the dead buffalo, greedily eating its flesh. The lion had followed the tracks of its victim. It had foreseen the encounter between the buffalo and the man, and had attacked the buffalo the moment it was distracted by its own attack.”