Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Opportunities and Life Lessons

In the Lavender fields at Sequim WA on a celebratory
road trip cross country following my treatment for ovarian cancer.
My diagnosis, in late 2011, of ovarian cancer with subsequent surgery and chemotherapy treatment have given me yet another level of insights into the deep soul of the human condition. I thank my Creator for positive outcomes and my friends and family for the very rich and vital support they extended throughout my treatment and recovery. Now that I have been in remission for nearly 9 months I am reflecting and open to guidance on where this incredible life journey will lead me from here...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Crossing new horizons...

I have learned, over the years, that when one window closes another always opens. I have also learned to remain open to the possibilities when that window finally does open. That philosophy has led me down some unexpected paths - some at my own choosing and others I would NEVER have chosen. It was the unplanned journeys that taught me the greatest lessons of all.

I have been blessed in this life with a strong faith, supportive family, true friends and a long, fulfilling career in the non-profit world - beginning in 1966 when I entered the field of nursing. Nursing taught me the art of communicating with people from all walks of life; of the joys gained from listening to and honoring their stories; and of my natural ability to facilitate healing. Though my fulltime career in nursing ended in 1988 I have carried those skills into all areas of my life.

The windows that subsequently opened for me followed the accidental deaths of my husband and son in 1988. Now you know which path I would NEVER have chosen! I have been asked many times – “how did you survive that” and my answer is always “I had two choices – to live or die. I chose to live.” And so, the journey back, from the dark abyss, laid before me a path of the greatest discoveries of all. Many of these discoveries were made in the non-profit world as well: at Norlands Living History Center 1989-1993 where I discovered and developed new skills – public speaking and teaching; scouting and a local historical society where I gained self confidence in my leadership abilities; and last but not least at Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area (HVWA).

My interest in helping to improve the end-of-life journey began in my early years of nursing when I witnessed people dying alone and in pain – this was many years before Hospice came to the USA (in the mid 1970’s). Following the deaths of my husband and son I was surprised to find there were no grief support services available in Central Maine. So this awareness – of the need for grief and end-of-life support – made HVWA a perfect fit for my interests and skills - and as my relationship with HVWA evolved I also came to realize that work was my life’s mission.

Starting in 1993 I developed HVWA’s bereavement program, founded Camp Ray of Hope and Grief in the Workplace in 1995 and Hope’s Place in 2005. I tapped into many skill sets during my years at HVWA – marketing, volunteer recruitment and training, board development, research, grant writing, program development, event planning and creative writing. Through those years I was Director of Volunteers and Bereavement Services 1994-2003 and Executive Director 2003-2010.

HVWA grew tremendously under my leadership and that is one of my greatest accomplishments and sources of pride. However, the day came when a little voice began telling me I should reach for new possibilities - but in order to do so I had to make the time and space. So, after 18 years with HVWA, I announced my retirement in 2009. Since then it has become clear to me that helping others, by sharing what I have experienced and learned, is where I must go from here. As soon as I realized and accepted that, some opportunities began to surface. I invite you or your organization to contact me so together we can explore how CROSSINGS can be of help to you.

Getting to know me - getting to know you...

It has been my pleasure to plan and deliver the Sunday morning spiritual gatherings at Camp Ray of Hope every year since it began in 1995. Below I have shared some of the messages I wrote for those gatherings, and other examples of my writings. I hope they will give you some insights into my personhood - if you are considering me as your consultant or Reiki Practioner. More importantly, perhaps one or more of these messages will speak to you personally and give you food for thought and perhaps some hope if you are in the midst of a personal struggle. Namaste, Dale

Dale Marie Clark, healer by Sharon Salmon, LSW

A few years ago it was my privilege to sit with Sharon when she asked me to interview for her graduate school research project on Healers. I had never thought of myself as that until she and I explored my childhood and life of service. Her written words touched me deeply and made me reflect on how I apparantly impact others. I was - and continue to be - humbled by this. Her essay has sat hidden away all these years - for what else would I do with it? But now I think this is where it is meant to be shared. Perhaps YOU are a healer too, and never thought of yourself as that? Today I am a Reiki Practitioner and my heart soars with opportunities to channel God's love and the spiritual, emotional or physical mending that often follows. Now for Sharon's story...

We humans do not heal other humans; rather, we facilitate, channel, make a space for, healing energy, which comes from what I choose to call God. Every person can learn to do this, however, it seems to come more easily and naturally to some than to others. Some people seem more inclined toward intuition, listening, interest in other people, and giving attention to others’ suffering. Though these “naturals” may enhance their skills with appropriate cognitive adjuncts and personal, inner work, others may require much more conscious development and hard work to achieve the same ability. These differences may stem from different personalities, different belief systems, or wounding/blockages in various areas of the psyche. Traumatic events, such as dealing with death, illness, injury, physical or mental handicapping, abuse, neglect, of loved ones or of ourselves, may open our hearts, paving the way for later helpfulness to others; these events may also callous the heart, making it inaccessible to the self or to others. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross says, “All pain is a gift”, and this is potentially true; although it may take longer for some than for others to realize the gift in pain. Some research supports that the growth of spirituality is a developmental stage beginning in later middle-age; if this is so, people may find facilitating healing easier later in life, than earlier.

I have come into contact with many, many healers during my life. The most important childhood healer was my grandmother, who had the gift of listening non-critically and of empowerment through genuine praise and support... going to my grandmother to talk and be heard was an incredible gift. Receiving her beaming assessment of me worked wonders...

One present day healer in my life, with whom I recently sat to interview, is my friend and hospice colleague, Dale Clark. Dale has that ineffable presence about her which invites one to let down and open up. She exudes compassion and safety; people trust her with their deepest confessions. Confession embodies an extremely healing function, and by its nature it employs a witness. This witness capacity is central for the healer, and it entails more than just active listening. For lack of exactly appropriate wording, I’ll say “holy listening”. It is active listening compounded with spiritual presence and loving compassion.

Dale’s life as a young person was a relatively happy one. Her parents had both come from somewhat troubled beginnings, and entered their marriage with a strong agenda to make their home happy and loving. Dale remembers her mother teaching her that children need to be listened to; they need loving adults to really be there for them. Another message from her childhood was that spirit is real; there is more to life than what we can physically observe between birth and death. Many of her mother’s female ancestors had psychic ability. Dale heard talk of séances and spirits, and her mother visited psychics for readings. As a young person, listening to herself and following her hunches was normal behavior for Dale. At 12years old, God gave her the message that her life was about being of service to others. She later decided to go to nursing school, and subsequently worked with children for more than half of a 22-year nursing career. Dale was frequently the nurse called in for upset children who needed to be treated quickly. In retrospect, Dale realizes that she must have centered down and become conscious of the “God within”, because she instinctively calmed herself, quietly approached the upset child speaking very softly, and then touched them gently on the back or the hands. The children always settled right down. This was normal behavior for Dale; this was not a skill she was cognizant of studying or learning.

After her husband and teenage son died in accidents ten weeks apart, the centering, calming, focusing behavior she used in her work became integral for her own survival. Dale used prayer and meditation regularly to try to find some peace; some spiritual comfort. When peace actually came to her (experienced as waves and waves of warm energy washing over her), she realized there really was something to all of this. The spiritual process of giving over control of external circumstances and acceptance of what is (Dale calls this, “turning it over to God”), got her through a lot of pain following these incredible losses.

Dale still uses her centering, calming, focusing practice in her work and also in her regular, everyday interactions. In her role as Coordinator of Bereavement for Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area, I have seen clients relax and open to Dale very quickly because they feel her compassion and warmth, and with this comes the safety to speak of their suffering. I have experienced it myself when I’ve needed to process something with Dale after facilitating a bereavement group or just when having coffee with her, friend to friend.

I feel that a healer, whether informally or formally, transmits God energy to another living being. If this happens, healing on some level happens, though it may not necessarily be discernable. This healing has little to do with training; it can be accomplished by the toll taker on the highway as easily as by the therapist in her office. It is certainly possible to set out to be a healer and to accomplish only the ability to perform a set of skills. Healer-hood is a grace and although it seems it can be accomplished by a process of soul growth, some seem to be born with it or to exhibit it at an early age.

I am able to feel it about people. I offer the example of two chiropractors I visited in the Portland area many years ago. One chiropractor had a beautiful, new office, was newly trained and seemed to have good technical skills. She used x-rays and the latest equipment and therapies to diagnose and treat. When I left her office, I felt a little sore and out of sorts, though trusted that I was getting the best treatment. The second chiropractor was a middle-aged Australian man who had his office on the first floor of his home. He did not believe in using x-rays, his equipment, though not shabby, was used. He always laid his hands on my back, gently, and held them there for a minute or two before doing anything at all. In that minute or two, I felt IT; the healing God energy. I knew this man was a healer (a channeler), and that God was the diagnostician. My back was healed, and I never left feeling sore and out of sorts. The other chiropractor was technically facile only. The tables might have been turned; the woman might have also been a healer (and indeed may have become a healer since) – a healer with fancy equipment – though I’ve observed that, more often than not, they don’t go together.

The Gift

When my son Jonathan died on August 5, 1988 it was as if someone had taken my legs out from under me with a 2x4. The next few years, as I came to know my body and psyche better, were an incredible awakening for me at all levels of my being. Among the things I learned was when to expect my feelings to resurface - always at unexpected times in the beginning - but with time I began to recognize the signs. In spite of that the spurts still caught me off guard sometimes. I wrote this story in August of 2005 about the triggers - or "grief spurts" - that year was one of those that caught me off guard. Perhaps you will relate to this as well - or maybe it will help you prepare for your grief journey. Either way, it is my gift to you, with a reminder that as the years marched on my grief spurts were never as intense as they were in the beginning. Namaste, Dale

Every August since my son Jonathan died in a car crash I get triggered. He died late on the evening of Friday, August 5, 1988 and every summer I have thought perhaps the triggers wouldn’t come that year – after all it had been five or ten or seventeen years since we had lost our sweet, fun and promising boy. I remember around the seven year anniversary I was particularly impacted and felt such sadness and angst for several days leading up to August 5th. I knew why – you generally know the signals when they appear after you live with a loss for the first year or two - but what I did not expect at that point was the degree of my hurt. I nurtured myself – had a manicure, went out to lunch with friends, worked in the garden, and rode the wave – still wondering why the feelings were so strong. On August 5th Harv and I went out to dinner, and on the drive home it finally struck me! The anniversary was on a FRIDAY for the first time since Jonathan had died! I was immediately relieved by this revelation and said “There! Another hurdle I’ve gotten through!”

Fast forward to August 2005 and again I was aware of the approaching anniversary but surprised at the degree of my feelings. Oftentimes I mull things over and figure it all out internally but this year I was really puzzled about why my feelings were so strong. Perhaps, I thought, because my Dad died two years ago - also in August. Perhaps all the other events and concerns in my life were influencing factors. Yes, this was all true, but why would that not have been the case last year or the years before? No, this was different. And so, I continued to ride the wave and knew I would get through it.

August 5th came – the anniversary of Jonathan’s death – and Harv took me out to dinner. As we ate and chatted it struck me that it was FRIDAY night! My body had known – but I had not until that very moment -why the trigger was so strong. Thoughts began to flood into my head! I wondered if Jonathan still “came around” but I had just gotten too busy to know it. I used to feel his spirit near me a lot when I was the Hospice bereavement coordinator – especially when working with grieving parents - but in my new role at Hospice I had not felt him as strongly for a couple of years. Had I gotten too busy? Should I pay closer attention to that? Should I reevaluate? Spend more time in reflection?

I believe our departed loved ones are so closely connected to the divine they can find ways to let us know they are still with us in spirit. Over the years I have listened to my inner voice and tried very hard to remain centered when making important life and career decisions. I believe I have also been gifted with signs – some quite remarkable and others more subtle. On that night I was to experience one of the most profound yet.

Harv and I finished eating, exchanged quips with our favorite waitress and made our way through the long waiting line. As the door opened I looked into the faces of a couple I had supported following the death of their young son several years ago. It was so good to see them happy and well. On the way home I stopped to fill my gas tank and a red car pulled to the pump ahead of me. I recognized the driver as one of the Moms who met with me following the tragic drowning of her teenage son. We waved to each other as she walked into the store. I sat there thinking of how good it was to see her smiling – something she surely had not been able to do when I had sat with her several years before. I watched her through the window as she stood in line at the counter waiting for another lady to pay. As that woman turned and came out the door I realized that she had also come to Hospice for help after her son had died in a motorcycle crash. I marveled at how content she looked and it warmed my heart to see that she was also smiling.

Like a bolt from the blue it hit me that in less than five minutes synchronicity had provided me with an incredible gift. I felt comforted and validated in my beliefs. In awe and with gratitude I said thank you Jon, as I made my way home.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Excerpt from the message I delivered at the Camp Ray of Hope Sunday morning spiritual gathering on September 19, 2010

What does the word cross or crossings mean to you? What pictures come to your mind? Maybe someone standing with arms wide open to receive you, to hug and give you comfort? If you are a Christian perhaps you immediately think of Jesus or the hymn The Old Rugged Cross? If you work in the medical field perhaps you picture a red cross or the caduceus? If you were born in a foreign land perhaps you picture a flag - many countries have incorporated crosses into their flags. Are you a sailor? Then there is the Mariner’s Cross. Do you travel a great deal or build roads – then you may envision a four way intersection? A cross or the word crossings means many things to many people.

For me the words cross and crossings bring forth those visions and more – one being my spirituality and my belief that loved ones who have gone on before me have crossed over to another place that holds sanctuary and safety for their souls. Crossings, for me, also means transition - a journey into the unknown with the courage to face that transition head on, without fear and with trust that a greater power will help me find the way.

Each and every one of you are in the midst of such a transition – a crossing – right now that presents one of the greatest challenges you will ever encounter. There are times you are not sure how, or if, you will make it through to a place of safety and sanctuary. Soon after your loss there were hugs and words of comfort every day from people who care about you deeply. You were surrounded by family and friends who were more than willing to help hold you up. But as time has gone on many of you have experienced a shift – people have gotten on with their lives and it seems they are not present as they were in the beginning – and now you may need that more than ever! On those days – and nights – you may wail, cry, rage and feel so very alone and ask why have they forsaken me? But always remember there is one dear friend – perhaps the dearest of all - whose arms are always wide open and ready to receive you. No matter where, why or when. With Him it will be well with your soul.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Have you ever hugged a tree?

Excerpt from the Camp Ray of Hope Sunday morning message September 20, 2009.

“Tree Huggers” has a whole different connotation than my message this morning. Or does it? Those who hug trees do so because they love the Earth. They have a strong conviction – perhaps even what we would term as fanatical – about saving trees. But nonetheless they are doing so for the love of Mother Earth and to retain her glory.

I was asked many years ago, after the deaths of my husband and son, if I had hugged a tree as part of my healing. At that time I had no idea what they were talking about. “Tell me more” I said with much hesitation – who the heck is this crackpot is what I was thinking if you really want to know! Have you wrapped your arms around a tree and let it ground you? Have you laid spread eagle on the Earth and let the four directions help you find balance and well-being with the world? Have you kissed Mother Earth and given thanks? “Nope – haven’t done any of those things yet” said I! What the heck is she talking about is what I was really thinking! But this crackpot –as I then considered her - gave me food for thought and I soon began opening my senses to the healing power of nature.

In no time I was appreciating more fully than ever the cleansing breezes on a hot stifling day; the smell of dirt and plants when I walked through the woods; green dewy grass between my toes on a beautiful summer morning; flowers that I once called weeds when they burst into bloom; mother birds gathering food for their young; Eagles soaring in the sky; and yes, a majestic tree hundreds of years old that feeds and gains it strength from Mother Earth – AND I learned that I could do also!

Even though my great-grandmother was a Penobscot Indian I had not fully appreciated those roots – that part of my history – though I had been taught by my parents to feel pride in that heritage. Since then I have gained respect and appreciation for what the Natives have taught us about Mother Earth and all of God’s creation. I noticed and wondered what was the message when three Eagles circled my home recently. I marvel in the miracles that surround me every day – those of birth, death and renewal of spirit. I thank the Great Sprit for all that has been given and I no longer judge or disbelieve the value of where others find their faith or gain their strength of spirit.

Chief Luther Standing Bear a Lokata Indian raised in the Sioux tradition said this:

There is a road in the hearts of all of us, hidden and seldom traveled,
which leads to an unknown, secret place. The old people came literally to love the soil, and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. Their teepees were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The soul was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing. That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly. He can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.

Have you wrapped your arms around a tree and let it ground you? Have you laid spread eagle on the Earth and let the four directions help you find balance and well-being with the world? Have you kissed the Earth and given thanks?