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Bruce had left me a minor blues ballad to consider the afternoon I opened a note from my friend Barbara. She had written to say thank you for a CD we had prepared for her daughter and to tell us something of Ellen’s last days in the hospital and hospice centre.
Ellen had spent much of her short life at Mortimer House, one of Jean Vanier’s homes in his L’Arche movement. Barbara and those who had long cared for Ellen and loved her, were concerned that the unfamiliar and sometimes harsh sights and sounds of the hospital would unnerve her for she was deeply connected to ‘home’ - her people and place of belonging.
To help surround Ellen with soothing sounds and voices of home a CD was made that incorporated gentle music and the loving encouragement of her community of affection. Barbara was much appreciative of this CD, and along with her thanks gave me the inspiration for ‘Ellen’s Song.’ She wrote, “After a long battle, Ellen succumbed to sleep, and at the time in the morning when she would normally rise, she awoke to a bright new day.”
Barbara is part of what I would call the mystical persuasion, and I mean that as the highest of compliments. I am partial to mystical thought, particularly when it is accompanied, as is the case with Barbara, by devoted study and service, for it emerges from a place of considered stillness, with a deep empathy for the human condition that rises above doctrinal bickering and drops us down in the gentle meadow of wondering.
We do not know what comes after life, or before it for that matter. But there is a long history in human consciousness of ‘beyond’. I have sat with enough people through their dying, as they left behind their chrysalis and spread their wings, to welcome Barbara’s metaphor of ‘the bright new day.’
So, with thanks to Barbara and Ellen for the lyrical inspiration as well as to all those who live and work on Jean Vanier’s sacred vessel and remind us of the unique contribution of each individual granted life. CJ
Wondering in the morning how I’ll find you,
Wondering in the evening how you’ll be,
Knowing that the time is near to leave me behind,
And let yourself be set free.
Watching all the people that have loved you,
Watching the parade that passes by,
Listening to the gentle words of comfort,
And the sorrow in their sad goodbyes.
All your life you’ve struggled,
Just to make it through the day,
To breathe and stretch,
And tell us where you’ve been,
Courage comes in forms,
That we never would suspect,
And saintliness is not always serene.
Now after all the struggles,
Peace descends upon your soul,
You sleep so sound, it must be time to go.
Wondering in the morning where you’ll waken,
Wondering how it feels to drift away,
Knowing even now as tears begin to flow,
You’ll begin a bright new day,
You’ll begin a bright new day.