- Parker J. Palmer
As 2014 draws to a close, I’ve been mulling over all that has happened this year – the planned and unplanned, the good and the bad. It’s been a big year.
My acceptance into the Facilitator Preparation Program with the Center for Courage & Renewal has been the highlight.
I love the renewed sense of purpose and fulfilment I get from being involved in good work like this – the idea that I can help make a positive difference in the world. It’s great to be immersed again in new learning, and I'm really looking forward to supporting people who are doing such important work in our communities – those involved in education, leadership, community service, health care and social change. Through Courage & Renewal work I hope to help sustain and renew their energy and courage so that they are able to keep doing their important work in the world.
On the not-so-good side of the ledger, earlier in the year both my elderly parents had serious falls, and their health and welfare became all-consuming for our family. In amongst the awfulness of it all though, I discovered the silver lining – it gave me the opportunity to spend many quiet hours with them both in hospital, and I enjoyed some precious conversations and experiences with them, which I now treasure.
At the time this lovely poem by Amy Fleury spoke a lot to me and helped me face my own inner questions around ageing and mortality ……
Because one must be naked to get clean,
my dad shrugs out of his pajama shirt,
steps from his boxers and into the tub
as I brace him, whose long illness
has made him shed modesty too.
Seated on the plastic bench, he holds
the soap like a caught fish in his lap,
waiting for me to test the water’s heat
on my wrist before turning the nozzle
toward his pale skin. He leans over
to be doused, then hands me the soap
so I might scrub his shoulders and neck,
suds sluicing from spine to buttock cleft.
Like a child he wants a washcloth
to cover his eyes while I lather
a palmful of pearlescent shampoo
into his craniotomy-scarred scalp
and then rinse clear whatever soft hair
is left. Our voices echo in the spray
and steam of this room where once,
long ago, he knelt at the tub’s edge
to pour cups of bathwater over my head.
He reminds me to wash behind his ears,
and when he judges himself to be clean,
I turn off the tap. He grips the safety bar,
steadies himself, and stands. Turning to me,
his body is dripping and frail and pink.
And although I am nearly forty,
he has this one last thing to teach me.
I hold open the towel to receive him.