Letting Go of Life

From my experience as a chaplain I see a lot of evidence that the ears of the dying are open till the last seconds. They may not be conscious. Maybe they’re like dreaming. But certainly they hear us and it makes a lot of difference what we say to them.
I remember being at the dying bed of a man. All the members of his family were assembled: His wife, his children and children in law, his brothers and sisters and grandchildren. Some of them were crying strongly. The man was breathing in short, quick, strong inhalations with long pauses between each breath and the next. I was wondering what he could understand of what was going on. He looked as if he were sleeping. Probably he was under a high dose of Morphine. I couldn’t detect any reaction in his face. When I prayed for him at the side of the dying bed I included a prayer that God may give both him and his family the ability of letting go while being aware of all the good that would rest with them. After the prayer there was a little silence. Then his daughter said: “Letting go is so hard. But I have heard that only when you let go of what you love it will really belong to you.” Then she looked over to her father and said: “He’s not breathing any more.” (Stefan Hammel, Loslassen und leben. Impress, Mainz 2016)

Two cactuses

Another story by Katharina Lamprecht

“This is awful!”, one cactus complained, “My thorns are so long that no animal dares to come near me. No lizard, no bird not even the tiniest termite! I feel so lonely”.

“Why are you complaining?” the other cactus answered, “Mine are so weak and thin and soft that I cannot defend myself at all. No animal shows me any respect. The lizards climb all over me and tickle me with their little feet and the birds dig their claws so deep into my flesh that it hurts. I hate it”.

“You are a lucky one”, the first cactus replied, “I would give my roots for an experience like that. Imagine, feeling all that life on oneself”.They went on complaining and lamenting in this way to each other for a while. But suddenly they had a wonderful idea: they would swap their thorns so that each other could get the feeling they wanted. And for a short time, both were happy. One, to feel the birds and lizards and the other to enjoy peace and quiet. But that didn´t hold on for long and soon each began to complain again. They felt their new lives to be exhausting or boring and they longed for their old lives. So they swapped their thorns back. But again, after a short period of contentment they began whining again as before.

Then one day the wise old snake came along and rested for a moment in the shade, the two cactus casted. She listened to the two of them, complaining away, and suddenly she whispered “instead of wailing to one another you better learn from one another”. And with these words said, she slithered on.

The cactus thought about these words for three days and three nights. Then they began to try and find out, how they each managed to let their individual thorns grow. When they knew how to do that, each started to explain and teach the other how to do it. After some practice they knew precisely how to grow strong and how to grow weak thorns. And the more they experimented the better they became and the more colorful and different their thorns got.

Now they were able to keep a perfect balance between peace and quiet and lively action. And for the wise little snake they created a thornless and shady space right between them.

To Fail with Enthusiasm

In a professional forum a colleague asked, if anybody knew of a certain therapeutical story. He remembered one that he once heard and thought that it was from a famous storyteller. Until then I never had actually written in this forum but now I wrote on behalf of this colleague’s question that I thought it was the famous story about a tiger. I was quite happy that I was able to contribute something at last until I read the response of another colleague. “I don’t know anything about a tiger”, he wrote, “but I guess you may have thought about the famous lion story”. I instantly sank into a hole three miles deep, full of shame and embarrassment. Now wasn’t that just typical of me and my incomplete knowledge? Shortly afterward I told a friend of mine what had happened, still very ashamed. But he hugged me and said “But you gave that wrong information with much love and enthusiasm”. I looked at him and began to work my way out of that hole.

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.

Political Solution

One morning the old storyteller said to his apprentice: “As you know, the king will be a guest in our town today. I have received a letter stating that he has heard of what I do and would like to hear a sample of my art himself. The king is in great worry, because the monarch of our neighbouring country demands from him a personal apology for some uncouthness, which truly he has never committed. By expressing this apology the king would be stripped of his dignity in front of his own nation and the neighbouring people. If he does not apologise, the other ruler threatens to ravage our land with his strong army. What is our king to do? If he apologises, he loses the respect of our people and of the neighbouring people as well, and maybe even his self-respect. If he does not apologise, the other monarch will take this as an excuse for starting a war. Then our king will lose his land and possibly his life, and our people will suffer great harm. At noon, I shall be at the town hall, in order to tell the King a tale which may give him a helpful hint for making his decision. I feel more feeble now than ever in my life, and I wish you to accompany me on my way.” The way to town seemed longer than usual to the apprentice. They had to pause many times so his master could regain his strength, but finally they arrived. They were guided to the king and all the dignitaries assembled in the town hall, and they were seated among them at a large table. After a number of high and important people had spoken, the storyteller was also asked to speak. He said: “In our town, there once lived a well-known man who was to hold a speech for many people, and even for the king. Now as he looked around, he saw such an abundance of wise and educated people that he himself did not feel wise at all. He forgot how at other times he had known to help himself out of any difficulty. He would have wished to sink into a deep hole in the ground. As this is impossible – what did this man do?”

After these words, the old man fell silent. Despairingly he turned to his apprentice with an inquiring look, as if he were uttering some wordless plea. The young man rose to speak and said: “He fell silent. He let his apprentice speak for him. His apprentice delivered the message to the king and this abundance of wise and educated people which his master would have told if words had not failed him. The apprentice said: ‘My master asks your pardon that he cannot address to you the words that you desire to hear from him. Yet he lets me speak for him. May I express his deep regret.” The people heard the apprentice speak for his master, and no one could decide whether the apprentice truly spoke for his master, but neither could anyone deny it. For his master’s mind seemed absent, and neither did he show approval nor reject the words the apprentice spoke on his behalf.”

The apprentice ended his speech. The listeners looked startled at him and his master. Then some of them started to laugh, while others clapped their hands, and a very odd atmosphere of tension filled the room. The mayor called for the next speakers, and the rest of the day passed by with music and festivities. Finally everyone went home. The king, however, sent heralds out on this very day. In all the towns of his empire they proclaimed the following message: “Tomorrow at noon, the king will abdicate because of his feeble health, and leave the royal throne to his oldest son. The speech of the king on passing over the crown and sceptre must be called off due to his sickness. His son will speak for him instead, and will truthfully state what his father would have said if only he had been able to speak as the king of this land for the very last time. The king knew well that his court would be bewildered at this curious message. But the ruler of his neighbouring country also could not easily decide what had been said by whom, and what was meant by the words that had been spoken.

On the way home the old storyteller seemed more tired than usual. He said to his apprentice: “Tomorrow I expect that a lot of people will come to my house wishing to hear a tale. It is impossible for me to do so. I would like you to take over.” The young man assured him that he would do so. After the apprentice had gotten up and had washed and clothed himself the next morning, he looked for his master. There in his bed lay the storyteller – dead. “What shall I do?” the young man asked himself in utter terror, and looked out of the window. His terror was even greater when he saw a vast crowd of people approaching the house. He went outside. “What do you want?” he asked the first ones who came toward him. “Your master has saved our land – or you and your master. We will live in peace, and we wish to tell him our words of gratitude. We also would like to ask your master to tell us one of his tales.” The young man shook his head: “The storyteller is dead. He asked me, though, to speak to you, and tell a tale on his behalf.” “But do you also know what the master wanted to say to us?” asked the people. The young man nodded. “Every single word.”


Do you know the Grimm’s tale of Rumpelstilzkin? Here’s an article that Kathy published today in her food blog… And maybe you will find another thing… or person… in it that seems familiar to you… have fun reading it!

And… thanks, Kathy!