Hi everyone!

December is the darkest month of the year, when nights stretch to their longest, outpacing the daylight here in the Northern Hemisphere – yet, the very longest night, the Winter Solstice on the 21st, is also when the cycle shifts and the sun begins to reassert itself.

Helping the light along are the holidays of this season - Hanukkah, the festival of lights, and Christmas and the kindling flame of hope it brings to the faithful. It can’t be by accident that this long, dark night of a month is when we gather with those we love to share joy, merriment, and gifts – or that it so often leaves us feeling exhausted.

I always sally forth into dark December buoyed by high hopes; hopes of reconnecting with old friends, of sharing laughter and fun with family, and of finishing the year with a sense of accomplishment rather than regret. And there have been some years in which I actually achieved all of that – but other Decembers have seen me miss the mark. How about you?

It’s perilously easy to get so hamstrung by our endless to-do lists that the real gifts of the season pass us by. As the Rigpa thought for the day reminded me this week:

“It is important to reflect calmly, again and again, that death is real and comes without warning. Don’t be like the pigeon in the Tibetan proverb: “He spends all night fussing about, making his bed, and dawn comes up before he has even had time to go to sleep.”

This month, when you’re caught up in the whirlwind of hectic shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, hosting, partying, card-sending, and racing to finish up your annual goals, don’t forget to hit “pause” on all the fussing to enjoy this season of Hope and Renewal. Be awake to the beauty of this month, with its endings and beginnings. And don’t forget to breathe!

At last, I am so excited to announce my latest book is about to be released!

"Creating a Culture of Care: Insights and Inspirations From A Hospice Leader"



As we in the hospice world know well, the holidays can be especially hard on those who are grieving. Family rituals ring hollow when a loved one is no longer there to enjoy them with us, and those who are emotionally battered by loss are especially vulnerable to despair at this time of year. This thoughtful post from Grief.com has some valuable ideas on how to acknowledge grief and keep our missing loved ones present in our hearts, while finding the courage it takes sometimes to discard those rituals that no longer feel right. A good share for your patient families, among its many useful suggestions is this:

“Have a Plan A/Plan B – Plan A is you go to the Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends. If it doesn’t feel right, have your plan B ready. Plan B may be a movie you both liked or a photo album to look through or a special place you went to together. Many people find that when they have Plan B in place, just knowing it is there is enough.”

How many times in life have you wished for a “rewind” button – a chance for a do-over for a mistake you made? Sometimes it happens – as in the case of this hospice patient who seized the moment to remarry the love of his life, even as his life is drawing to its close:

“The Pangburn couple's love story started years ago when Brenda and Thomas James first met in 1978. "He knew me long before I knew him," Brenda James said. Thomas said he met Brenda when they were living their 'honky-tonk' life.

"Then we got together in '81, in August of 81," Brenda said.

The couple was married for over 30 years and later divorced. They have since rekindled their love for each other and are tying the knot once again. "It was my ex-husband's final wish to be remarried, and it's been a blessing," she said.

Last, I leave you with a short piece by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver:

The Uses Of Sorrow"

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.”
Mary Oliver


Speaking of lighting up the darkness, this is a lovely idea for remembrance, from our friends at Hospice of St. Francis:

“Two brilliant Oak trees were illuminated Thursday night in a ceremony for anyone mourning the loss of a loved one by Hospice of St. Francis in Rockledge and Titusville.

Hospice of St. Francis offers free grief support for anyone in Brevard County who has lost someone close to them and they get an uptick in requests around the holiday season each year, prompting the idea of the ceremony, according to spokeswoman Mary Larson. “

And what a bright and shining honor for this hospice volunteer whose decade of work with Joliet Area Community Hospice has earned him a national award:

“Joliet Area Community Hospice volunteer Jim “J.P.” Morgan, was the chosen as one of four recipients nationwide to receive the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization 2018 “Volunteers Are the Foundation of Hospice Award” in the category of organizational support.

Morgan was presented with the award at the NHPCO conference in New Orleans on Nov. 6. He started volunteering with Joliet Area Community Hospice 10 years ago, shortly after retiring from ExxonMobil.”


Happy Holidays from the RiverCove Retreat Center

The Watershed Group
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