The nurture of an infant in their early days, as well as the care of an elder have both been described as ‘cocoon care’ by a fellow prayer minister, Sonia Brownless. I would also add to that list the immediate care of a person who has turned away from life. This process, likened to an insect in a cocoon can take anywhere from 21 days to 3 yrs. During that time of waiting, the insect’s body changes and emerges in a different state. This picture of a cocoon allows our thoughts to ponder the hidden treasure, quiet contemplation, and a grace yet to be revealed. All of these parallel the blessings of knowing that a person’s human spirit which is undergoing a drastic transformation, early or late in life, is ultimately being called forward to present with much change and a new purpose.
Knowing how the human spirit connects with the soul and body during these special seasons of life is epic to acceptance of the ebb and flow of a smooth life transition. Learning the art of invitation to bring connection alongside a dear one whose life and destiny is moving towards the light of God carries countless moments of ups and downs.
In my current stage of life, I’m honored to be a part of the care and oversight of Grace, a woman who married my spiritual father some years ago and is now widowed. Grace is 83 with a long list of medical limitations including vascular dementia. As an elder in the last stages of life, there is an ever-present tension between the continued need and purpose on this side of Heaven, versus the time in which that person will transition into an eternal resident of Heaven.
So, what is the best way to welcome this transition?
Let’s start by embracing the joy of Grace’s presence in all her humanity. This is something that must begin with those on the journey alongside. Like the infant who has a say (and quite loudly) when they need to eat, so my ward Grace has a way of speaking without words when she is hungry. Note those candied nuts and cookies that suddenly go missing from the pantry, or those wrappers stuffed into the couch. It can be hard to keep up with some of the daily challenges in providing enough protein, calories, and nutrition to one with a relentless sweet tooth.
So, this week as Grace continues to show signs of fading from this world, the importance of ‘cocoon care’ came up. Abruptly, her comments started turning into words like, “why” or “what does it matter”. With the overwhelming desire to turn inward and pull the covers up over her head, digging in and stopping all forward movement, we needed a new plan. Grace is still here, so what does God want us to learn on this journey with her? Quickly, the care team discussed and came up with a simple 5-step process to help Grace (and us) embrace the joy of God’s presence with her in this time of transition.
First, we validated the pain, frustration, or lack of purpose alongside Grace as best she could language, and gave words to her, asking for her to affirm. She would say, “Why am I still here? I want to go to heaven, my time is overdue”. Those are tough questions Grace. Can we ask God together and see what He may say?
Next, we stayed present and available. An example is where we have been intentional and plentiful with valid compliments about how her help in daily household duties really helps us and reduces the burden. Three, we connected with words and eye contact saying, “I’m so glad to see you! We are blessed to be with you.” -HUG-HUG. The more we did these things, the more words she spoke and developed a conversational banter known to create an engaging atmosphere, comfort and ease in connection. YES, it works. We are engaging with Grace’s spirit and everyone started to feel the joy!
There is also the quiet work which needs to be done in both evening prayers and privately. Inviting Christ to hold some of Grace’s pain in this place of distressful transition. And lastly, we prayed aloud and discussed openly a welcome to God to bring more light and vision to Grace, where she might yet have some hidden treasure to be revealed before she goes, or secret pact which is still in need of being annulled.
Each of our days are in God’s hands.
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand delivers me” (Ps. 138:7).