Caregiving Conference: Inspiration of ‘Now What?’ brings resource people together in midst of the pandemic

In my ministry, I’ve been focused on the needs of caregivers for years—especially helping caregivers find ways to care for themselves. This interest proved to be such a vital part of the lives of people around me that I was open to fresh ways to spread this message. Eventually, I talked with Front Edge Publishing Editor David Crumm about contributing to a nationwide effort to help empower individuals and their caregivers.

And this was even before we all were hit head on by the pandemic sweeping around our world!

As we publish this column in May 2022, the book is on sale via Amazon. So, it’s a great moment to order your own paperback copy.

The result was a timely book that helps individuals, caregivers, families, friends, congregations and community nonprofits—the entire social fabric of millions of Americans—grapple with the inevitable needs we all will face as we age. We decided to call this particular book—Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging.

As we began our work, we had no idea how timely our book would be!

Now, the pandemic has stretched our social safety net into such a tattered state that I am writing this column about our regional work in the same week that headlines nationwide are mourning the horrifying milestone of 1 million Americans lost to COVID.

So, are you in need for some good news?

After I researched and wrote my chapter for this book, I began to consider using that book as a resource at a regional conference. The more I began to consider such a conference, the more I realized that many kinds of caregivers needed this information!

I mentioned this idea to David and he proposed the idea of adapting a special run of these paperbacks specifically for our area (McMinn County, Tennessee) with an additional section for local resources for both caregivers as well as medical, financial, and elder care planning.

Our church, with the help of the local ecumenical McMinn Ministries, funded the cost of the books so that we were able to give away copies not only to those who attended, but to several local businesses and partnerships who helped make our conference possible.

Initially, we were just going to do a short seminar on helping caregivers prepare for end-of-life discussions. However, as I began to talk to persons in our community, the topics expanded to preparing a will, understanding the legal twists and turns of caregiving, and an emphasis on the resources and support groups that exist for caregivers. What we ended up creating was an all-day event with five speakers and loads of donated resources and materials from all around the county.

Then, COVID revisited our area in the form of the Delta variant. So, plans were put on hold and our conference that was to have taken place in January of 2022 was moved to the (fortunately warmer) April 9th, 2022. Despite the delay, the event was well attended and it turned into a wonderful day for all involved.

The event covered a broad spectrum of topics and needs: from having a demonstration of what a caregiving support group looks like to the topic of how to recognize your own needs as one who gives care (you have to take care of yourself if you want to be able to care for others) as well as dealing with financial issues and concluding with my own presentation on preparing for a funeral and having the “difficult” conversations that kind of planning that entails,

The event was well received. As one attendee wrote, “The more informed I am the better.”

That was the goal. We have resources, we have contacts, and we have support. Sometimes, though, we don’t know where to begin. And, as another attendee wrote, “Education is power!”

It was a small start, to be sure. Yet it was a big step in working to relate to our community to meet a need. It is my hope that this program will develop into a regular, yearly conference. It is also my hope that our church will continue to host that it might be known that this church and its congregation cares for those who give care.

My sincere appreciation to all involved, and many thanks to David Crumm and the great team at Front Edge Publishing for not only having offered me the opportunity to work on such a great project as Now What?—but to also be willing to work with me to make the book even more specific to my community. It provides so much good information and was such a great addition to the materials we provided.

Let me encourage you to consider utilizing this book in your own setting! What a resource, and what a way to help have some of the more difficult conversations that are so easily avoided, but so very necessary.

Again, my thanks to everyone involved in this important work.

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Care to learn more?

Charles Ensminger is Pastor of Allen Memorial United Methodist Church in Athens, Tennessee. He also is the author of Crafting the Sermon and Saturday Faith.

There’s a wealth of wisdom in the tradition of singing for our lives

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By LUCILLE SIDER
Author of Light Shines in the Darkness

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THIS SPRING, millions of Americans have bathed in waves of inspiration from the sight and sound of Ukrainian choirs singing for their nation’s life. From New York to Michigan to Idaho, Oregon and California, regional choirs have turned song into spiritual fuel—a movement that seems to have been sparked by the Saturday Night Live appearance of the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York in February. If you missed that moving appearance, I have a video clip below.

I hope that, as so many of us are talking about these uplifting waves of music—we remember the traditional wisdom all of us share: Our spirits soar when we sing. It’s a truth in nearly all of the world’s great religious traditions. There’s an entire chapter devoted to the importance of daily singing in Benjamin Pratt’s Guide for Caregivers.

I grew up in an environment where singing was always present. Singing was about sharing music and fellowship with others. We sang at church, at school and at home. In fact, every Sunday evening we gathered around the piano with our mother playing. She had a beautiful low voice and I loved hearing her. Fortunately for me, I also had a low voice and soon I was singing right beside her.

The music was all Christian and our favorite was How Great Thou Art, the 19th-century hymn that was popularized by George Beverly Shay, the renowned musician for Billy Graham.

The other early memory was that of my grandfather holding me and singing a song he composed just for me. It was “Sweet Little Susie girl,” since Susie was my nick-name. My Grandpa took me fishing, he bought me ice-cream then he held, rocked me and sang, “Sweet little Susie Girl” until I was fast asleep in his arms.

Since that time I have sung my Grandpa’s song to every child I have held and rocked—with my favorite being the song adapted for my son Soren, “Sweet little Soren Boy.” Just last year I held and sang to 6-year-old Daryn.

I even sing to my cat PJ: “Sweet little PJ cat.”

In high school, I loved singing. In addition to the choir, I sang in both a Girls Quartet and a Mixed Quartet. The best part of the mixed group was standing by my boyfriend who sang bass, the lowest voice, thus providing the foundation for the higher singers.

At church I sang in a “ladies” trio and loved it. This was in Ontario, Canada, where I grew up and lived until I went to college in Pennsylvania. Since then I have lived in the US, but am proudly still a Canadian citizen with a permanent resident status.

I grew up assuming everybody could sing and carry a tune but was utterly shocked when, at age 20, I heard my new boyfriend sing joyfully, loudly, but totally out of tune! Totally! It was our first worship service and I had a hunch that this was the man I would marry. I was right about that and in all our years of marriage, he never, never sang on tune. He was a brilliant man, but never sang on tune! I felt badly for him that he never had the formative experience of singing in small groups.

In my younger years, singing with others was so important. The connection through singing together ran very deep. There was a joy in harmonizing with others, of hearing their voices and inserting my own low voice in a way that drew us all together, making us one.

The hymns from my childhood are etched in my consciousness and they, as well as more recent hymns, magically come to me every day as I awaken. I feel so blessed and I believe that those early hymns were foundational to my spirituality. Each morning I write out the hymn I wake up with and I make a practice of singing it during the day. This practice helps me stay stable emotionally and grounded spiritually.

One recent hymn that I have awakened with is:

Precious Lord take my hand.
Lead me on. Help me Stand.
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storms, through the night,
Lead me on to the light.
Precious Lord, lead me on.

I often think of these songs as responses to daily struggles, so I immediately asked myself: “What I am wrestling with that brings me this hymn?”

Soon I realized that it was about a relationship with a female relative that had grown tense recently. And I am grateful for the hymn because, when I saw her next, there was no tension at all!

Sometimes I compose short songs or chants. Often they emerge from my meditation. The one I sing most often is:

Let it come.
Let it go.
Let it come.
Let it flow.
All is well.

This chant arose from a time of meditation in the natural world. I was visiting my friend Frank in Pennsylvania. He invited us to experience an unusual form of meditation in which our group sat on lawn chairs in a shallow stream. Birds were singing and the water was gently flowing under our chairs and around our ankles. As I tried to settle down, I was quite agitated because I kept thinking about my beloved son who happened to be struggling with his vocation at that time. He had not found a job that was right for him and, as his mother, I was naturally anxious.

Then, as I focused on the stream in which we had positioned ourselves, I noticed the ripples in the water. They would come around my chair, then would gently flow on down in the stream. That’s when the opening words of the song that I shared above first came to me. They spoke deeply to me about my son. They challenged me to back off and let go of my agitation. They gently guided me to just let things go as they would. Just let them flow.

When I came out of the stream, I told my friend Frank about my experience and I quoted the words to him. He immediately added “All is well.” He was quoting a line from Julian of Norwich, a 12th century English mystic. Her famous words were:

All shall be well.
All shall be well.
All manner of things shall be well.

The next day I composed a tune to our chant. It was a simple tune but it added strength to the words. And for the next couple of days I found myself singing it, especially when I remembered that my son was going through a challenging time.

Frank and I have been singing it ever since. I find that this little chant can speak to people from all walks of life.

Most touching for me was the time I taught it to a group of people who were living with serious mental illness. I was one of the clergy leading them in a worship service once a week. I am open about the fact that, during my life, I have lived with mental illness. I know from experience—both professional and personal—that finding a mental balance involves “letting things go.” These dear people clearly understood “letting go.”

I then decided to add motions to the song to enhance the meaning of the words. For the words, “let it come, let it go” the motions were simply moving our arms back and forth. Before we knew it, we were gently swaying our bodies back and forth. Then in the last line, we opened our arms widely, singing. “All is well.”

Week after week I would join these dear people in worship and week after week, we would sway and sing, “Let it come, let it go. Let it come, let it flow. All is well.”

Currently I live in Chicago in the same apartment building where my friend Frank lives. He is a musician—an organist and pianist—so music is very much part of our lives. We have morning meditation together and currently are using the book, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.

Each day’s passage includes a short hymn. We sing the hymn together. Recent hymns have been I will trust in the Lord and We are marching in the light Of God.

In these times of war, we must hold tightly to God. This is our anchor—marching in the light of God.

I feel deeply blessed that music was part of my life as a child and it clearly was the foundation that I have enjoyed ever since.

Music can be a pathway toward peace. It is a way of relating deeply with others and deeply with God. It often brings me through a dark tunnel. I am so grateful for it. So very grateful.

What songs do you recall from childhood?

What songs might you sing today?

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Care to see the Ukrainian choir singing on Saturday Night Live?

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Care to Read More?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. She also is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day.

Here are some of her earlier columns:

 

 

 

 

‘Act your age!’ may lead to healthy surprises

The Lake Michigan shoreline in Chicago has many lovely places to stroll or roller blade. (This photo by Roman Boed is free to share with others via Wikimedia Commons.)

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By LUCILLE SIDER
Author of Light Shines in the Darkness

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“Act Your Age”
I’ve always been a daredevil when it comes to sports and at times it has cost me dearly.

It all started at about age 6. My brother Ron, age 14, was pitcher for the school team and he needed to practice at home. I gladly volunteered to be his catcher. We lived in Canada, just across the border from Buffalo, New York. Ron was one of those pitchers who did a full arm circle—and was he fast! Wow! So fast that each pitch nearly knocked me down. Furthermore, the glove I used was way too big for my six-year old hand. But I was brave and never missed one of those fireball pitches.

Come high-school, I joined the girls’ basketball team. I was not only fast but aggressive. I loved working my way to the enemy court and popping those balls right into their basket. However, my aggression took over at times, and I was fouled out. I hated sitting on the side lines—but eventually I was able to manage my aggression.

Fast forward 21 years, which brought me to age 37. My husband and I bought a cottage on Lake Webster in Indiana and a beautiful motor boat. We lived in Chicago and loved the lake life on the weekends. One of my dreams came true when I learned how to water ski. I had watched with envy those lucky people who not only water skied but who also did tricks. I was itching to do the same.

Water skiing came easy to me and I was soon jumping the waves and skiing in doubles with my step-son. All was well for three years, but, on October 1, I had an accident that left me with back problems for thirty-five years.

It happened like this. Our family competed with the Johnson family when it came to water-skiing. One of the competitions was about enduring the cold water in the early spring or late fall. Who could ski earliest in the spring? Who could ski latest in the fall?

On October 1 of 1982, it was 80 degrees outside and my husband said to me, “I’ll take you water-skiing and you’ll win the competition! You will be the latest in the season for waterskiing.”

Of course, I agreed. Didn’t even think of the dangers. But when I jumped in the water I was shocked—utterly shocked. The water was cold, it felt like ice-water. In all my days of water-skiing I had never been in such cold water. But I knew that I’d be okay once I got out of the water because it was 80 degrees. The boat sputtered, however, and did not lift me out of that freezing water. But—instead of dropping the line and sinking back into the water—which I would usually do—I held on to the rope and somehow, I twisted my back. And that is why I have had back pain for 38 years.

At age 50 my marriage ended, which included selling the lake house, our boats and those glorious water-skis. No more water-skiing! That felt bad—very bad for a while. What felt worse was the fact that I felt totally abandoned by my husband. He, a seminary professor had fallen in love with a student and soon married her. It sent me into a deep depression.

But, one way I managed my depression was getting involved in sports. And this time it was roller-blading in Chicago along beautiful Lake Michigan. Roller blading came easy to me since it was just a variation of ice-skating, which had been a family winter sport years ago in Canada. Back then I even played hockey on the creek behind our house. Family hockey, however, was not fast or aggressive, so I was not in danger of hurting myself.

When roller-roller blading along Lake Michigan I met lovely people. In fact, I met one couple who was looking for a caregiver for their two-year old son, Jason. I offered to care for him and he was adorable. Looking back, I realize that he was like a grandchild to me. I read to him. I kicked the ball with him. I even talked him into eating broccoli!

I was so delighted with my life that, for a while, I ignored the fact that I had back pain. But it did not go away. It seemed to get worse so I eventually had back surgery for a perturbing disk. Recovery for this took a full month. My beloved sisters from Canada came to nurture me, each for two weeks, which was quite a sacrifice on their part. That surgery helped somewhat but it would be another 20 years until my back pain was totally alleviated.

When my sisters left, I fell into a deep, deep depression. I was in therapy, I took psychiatric medication and I had two one-month hospitalizations. Yet, the depression hung on. So I travelled to Gould Farm in Connecticut. Working on the farm was very therapeutic but I got myself into big trouble when skating on the lovely pond. It turned out that the fellow skaters were young men who wanted to play hockey. I grew up playing hockey in Canada so I joined in without a thought. I was so proud of myself—racing after the puck and often out-skating the young men.

But then I fell. I fell hard on my head. Very hard! I was sent to the hospital and it was determined that I had a concussion. When I returned to the farm, I made a pledge to myself: that I would hereafter “act my age.” That I would not follow those urges to compete dangerously.

Seven years ago I temporarily forgot my pledge to “act my age.” I was about to move back to Chicago and live near beautiful Lake Michigan with its trails all along Lake Michigan. I could again roller-blade along the lake. I had lost my roller blades in a flood so when I saw a huge sale at Dick’s Sporting Goods, I jumped. I bought everything—skates, helmet, knee pads, wrist pads. I was in heaven and went to the nearby trails to try them out. They were perfect.

But then I got thinking. It was almost 20 years since my roller-blading days. I remembered my vow to myself “to act my age.” That vow would not go away. I called my friend Frank and asked him what he thought about my rollerblading along the lake without a partner. He was quiet and did not really respond. I knew him well enough to realize that he was not in favor of me going out along the lake in roller blades. He himself did not roller blade. The next day I returned all my equipment to Dick’s.

Eventually, I joined LA Fitness and enrolled in “water aerobics.” Water aerobics is easier on the body than regular exercises because the water itself takes some of the strain. After about a month, my back stopped hurting. I couldn’t believe it. My back had been hurting for over thirty years. I had sought all kinds’ treatment for it: physical, acupuncture, medication, surgery but none of it brought relief.

I started chatting with others in water aerobics. Their story was the same as mine: chronic back problem for years, multiple attempts to remedy it. The only thing that has worked is water aerobics.

Water aerobics is rigorous although not dangerous. It is a real work-out. It is fun, especially as you get to know others. Plus, after the class some of us hit the hot tub. That warm water spraying from the spouts feels heavenly. You come home feeling tired but a short nap solves that.

It enables me, finally, to act my age.

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Care to Read More?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. She also is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day.

Here are some of her earlier columns:

 

 

 

 

Congregations nationwide are welcoming prayers and music for the people of Ukraine

Leaders of an interfaith prayer service for the people of Ukraine in Augusta, Georgia

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EDITOR’s NOTE: Over the past week, the home office of our online magazine has received notes about dozens of Ukraine-themed programs at congregations across the U.S. Some congregations have welcomed Ukrainian-American choirs to sing during a worship service, or at a special community-wide event. Other communities have organized larger interfaith efforts. We asked Rodger Murchison, a pastor and the author of our book Guide for Grief, to write about a service that he helped to organize in Augusta, Georgia. Here is his story …

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The Augusta, Georgia, Community Prays for Ukraine

By RODGER MURCHISON
Author of Guide for Grief

The situation in Ukraine is horrific and tragic. What can we do to help? People of faith can pray. The city of Augusta, Georgia, organized a Community Prayer Service. We invited Christians of all denominations as well as our Jewish and Muslim neighbors to participate.

To promote this Service of Prayer for Ukraine, we reached out to our local CBS, ABC and NBC television affiliates. They all agreed to co-sponsor this service and they also aired brief interviews with several area organizers. Our local talk-radio station welcomed two clergy to participate in a live interview about the service.

The Service of Prayer for Ukraine was held on Sunday March 13, 2022. The sanctuary of First Baptist Church was the venue and between 350 and 400 were in attendance.

How did we organize this service?

We began with a “Congregational Hymn of Peace” set to the music of Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia.

Then, interspersed in the program we featured a duet, titled Shalom—as well as an anthem from Antioch Missionary Baptist church.

Here’s how we presented our prayers:

  • A Prayer for the People of Ukraine by the Rev. Will Dyer
  • A Prayer for Political Leaders by U.S. Rep. Rick W. Allen
  • A Prayer for the Faith Community of Ukraine by Rabbi David Sirull
  • A Prayer for Peace by Father Mark Ross
  • A Prayer for the Students of Ukraine by Dawson Booth, a student at Augusta University
  • A Prayer for the Children of Ukraine by Imam Jawad Rasul
  • A Prayer for the People of Russia by the Rev. Sonia Sullivan-Clifton
  • A Litany for Ukraine led by the Rev. Rodger Murchison
  • A Prayer for the Military by Col. Jeff Voyles, Senior Chaplain at Ft. Gordon
  • A Prayer for Forgiveness by the Rev. Kenneth Martin
  • We also set aside time for Congregational Silent Prayer
  • Benediction

In addition to praying, we also can send help to the millions of refugees. At our Prayer Service an offering of more than $5,000 was raised for relief work in the region.

I also have received requests for a copy of the simple litany we used in the service. Here it is in a PDF format.

When disaster strikes, our resilience is rebuilt with helping hands

When disaster strikes, we reach out to restore life

By LUCILLE SIDER
Contributing Columnist

Eleven years ago, my beautiful house flooded. I lived in Binghamton, New York at the time and had just moved into my house one year before. It was just a block from the Susquehanna River and when my daughter-in-law visited, she insisted, absolutely insisted that I buy flood insurance. She is from Baton Rouge and is was well acquainted with floods. I acquiesced mainly to get her off my back. Furthermore, the insurance was only $300.

On the day of the flood I was at my church helping with the free dinner that we provided every Wednesday. Feeding 100 needy people was a heart-breaking experience on one hand but on the other was so fulfilling to see these dear folks leave happy.

During my whole life, I have paused before a meal to say grace. But it now felt somewhat shallow and artificial because never in my life have I been hungry because I could not afford a meal. My few times of hunger have totally been self-imposed.

It was at that community dinner where I met Brittany, a 13-year-old girl with her hair flowing down her face. We became friends and had many shopping sprees at Walmart. I was so grateful that I was able to provide her with clothes, toiletries and gifts for her family. She later joined the church and when her son was born, he was baptized there. She was such a gift to me: a young woman to guide through tough times.

My pastor was at the community meal the night of the flood and he, knowing where I lived, insisted that I leave immediately to avoid the streets that were already flooding. It was not until I had to drive through a foot of water that I realized the flood was truly serious and that my house was in danger.

Like thousands of people all along the river both in New York in Pennsylvania, the message by the police on my phone was that I had to leave immediately, take medicines and pets and go to the college gym. I later learned that there were hundreds of people lined up on cots at the gym and the pets had to stay in the car.

Fortunately, I called my friend Anita before I left and she insisted that I come to her house. For three days we were glued to her TV trying to spot my house. We could not see it but, in four days, we were allowed into the house. At first, I scheduled a flood-response company to come the next day and pump out my basement. The cost would be $1,000 dollars. But, before they arrived, my neighbor, Jim, came with a pump that his church had just purchased to pump out basements for free. I just bowed my head in gratitude.

I later realized how this was just the beginning of people surrounding me with love and concrete ways to help. Friends and relatives poured in to help clean up from the flood and restore my home.

My basement at the time had two feet of sewer water. Laundry and books were floating. Hammock and art supplies were floating. At that moment, I did not care about losing furniture, books or carpets: They could all be replaced. But, I feared that my thirteen photo albums were destroyed and could not ever, ever be replaced. In tears, I asked Jim to look for them. He had only a flashlight and could find just ten. I begged him to continue the search. I simply could not bear the idea of losing any of the albums. He kept looking and finally found all thirteen!

I then carried the sewer-soaked albums to my back deck.  I started to take the muddy photographs out of the albums, wipe them with a paper towel and set them on the deck to dry. It was a sunny day and I believed they could be spared. It was at that moment that my pastor, Steve, came by and declared that the photos should all be taken to the church, and that people there would wipe them off and dry them.

What a relief! Perhaps, perhaps my precious photos would be saved!

For two weeks I was mired in the clean-up of my house.Friends poured in to help. They knew I could never face the devastation on my own. Everything on my first floor had to either be thrown out or saved in some way. Sofas, of course, could not be saved but tables and chairs could be if thoroughly washed with bleach water. We wore masks to protect our lungs, but masks only helped somewhat. I, like many others, developed a cough that clearly stemmed from the foul air and sewer water.

For a week, I essentially forgot about the photos and focused on giving reports to the insurance company. I thanked my daughter-in-law profusely for insisting that I get flood insurance. Because of it, I actually received more money than I spent on rebuilding my house. My brother and his wife from Canada were central in this.

I learned later that my friends at my church had worked several evenings to save my photographs.  They took each one out of the plastic. They carefully wiped each photograph with a paper towel and set it on tables to dry. This took several evenings. Then one of my friends bought new photo albums and they placed all of the pictures in those albums.

At the coffee hour, that third Sunday after the flood, they presented me with the albums. I cried, they cried. I went home and slowly looked through all of those photos. Some I had forgotten.

As I was writing my memoir, Light Shines in the Darkness, pouring over my photos—photos of my entire life—helped me heal in a profound way. It helped me let go of some of the pain of divorce and showed me that my life as a single person is deeply enriching and fulfilling.

And now, eleven years later, I have just poured over those pictures once again. Pictures of my son, just five years old in his kindergarten graduation.Pictures of him playing chess in high school not just with his fellow students but with elderly Jewish men. That enabled him to take first place in the Illinois high school championship. Watching him in the town parade on a beautiful float—that is the stuff of “motherly pride.” Pictures of my precious outside garden and then my inside garden with its 91 plants.  Pictures of my nieces gathered in my living room—sharing the pain of sexual abuse by an older relative. Praying together, finding the strength to overcome that darkness in our lives.

Pictures of my two beloved friends, Alyce and Frank. All those Christmases together with Frank at the piano and the rest of us singing Joy to the World at the top of our lungs. The pets, PJ my cat who always manages to find a lap, and dear Pablo, Frank’s dog who had sugar diabetes (like Frank) and is now in dog heaven.

Tears flow as I see those pictures that, just eleven years ago, were floating in sewer water.  

Thanks to the many friends who worked so tirelessly to help me preserve those memories.

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Care to Read More?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. She also is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day.

Here are some of her earlier columns:

 

 

 

There’s a place on the Bocce court for every age and level of physical ability

Carl is Commissioner of our bocce league and loves to play from his Electric Mobility Vehicle (EMV).

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By BENJAMIN PRATT
Contributing Columnist

Carl pulls his EMV up to the side of the court. Carl is a double amputee who serves as Commissioner of our Bocce league and loves rolling the balls.

Describing his aim for first-time observers, he says, “Now I’m supposed to put this green ball close to the little white ball that’s blocked by that red ball.” We all encourage him and his face grows serious as he leans over the side of the court—poised oh so carefully.

With his practiced arm, we know that he can do pretty much whatever he sets out to do. And, sure enough, that green ball grazes the red ball, knocking it out of the way, leaving his ball closest to that little white ball called pallino (“the bullet”) in Italian.

This is the last of his team’s four green balls—so his roll is in position to win one for the team.

But, there’s still one red ball to roll!

That’s Dee preparing to roll her ball. I’m standing at the left side of this photo cheering for my teammate.

Dee, 92, steps onto the court. She likes to use both of her hands to roll the ball underhand between her knees—similar to the way ol’ timers sometimes shoot foul shots in basketball. She paces back and forth seeking just the right angle.

Finally, she bends over, rocks back and forth. But she doesn’t roll that ball.

Wait! This roll potentially is for the win!

She rises and takes a moment to seriously studying the situation. Finally, she assumes her delivery position, rolls the ball and both teams gasp! Her ball rolls perfectly down the court and nudges the pallino—and comes to rest just 6 inches away! She has won the third game of the match, giving her team two wins and only one loss.

A good day. A good win.

Losses come in many forms for aging persons—the death of a spouse, the loss of health, mental acuity, bodily functions, old friends, but one thing does not seem to wain—the enjoyment of good competition.

Bocce is a sport accommodating to persons of all ages, skills and abilities and despite physical limitations. Bocce belongs to the boules family. Having developed from games played in the Roman Empire, Bocce evolved into its present form in Italy.

The accessibility of bocce to people of all ages and abilities has helped the sport to spread in recent years. Out of 1,700 residents in our Continuing Care Community, over 250 signed up to play in our league competition. We have three leagues with ten teams per league playing in the spring and the fall. Women and men play with equal and very competitive skills that bring a sense of belonging, companionship and the delight of winning and the disquiet of losing.

And with that, I say:

‘Play Bocce!’

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Care to learn more?

Clicking on this photo will take you to the current “Amazon’s Choice” bocce set, rated at 4.8 stars after nearly 4,700 customer reviews. Want to see other options? Just type “bocce” into the Amazon search bar and you’ll find dozens more.

THERE ARE DOZENS OF BRANDS of Bocce sets available on Amazon and at other retailers nationwide. The currently ranked “Amazon’s Choice” bocce set costs less than $40.

THERE ARE MANY SOURCES FOR BOCCE RULES. Here are two:

Meet Benjamin Pratt

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Based near Washington D.C., the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Pratt is a retired pastoral counselor with 40 years of experience working with men and women facing a wide range of stresses and tragedies. He is a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and a retired member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. He writes regularly for ReadTheSpirit online magazine.

His book, A Guide for Caregivers, has helped thousands of families nationwide cope with the wide array of challenges involved as more than 50 million of us serve as unpaid caregivers in the U.S. alone. In 2021, Ben will continue to write about caregiving issues for us.

You can learn more about him, and all of his books, by visiting his Amazon author page.

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Aging Today podcaster Mark Turnbull talks with Rabbi Joseph Krakoff of the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network

A Fascinating Interfaith Dialogue about End of Life Issues

Click on the cover of Rabbi Krakoff’s book to visit its Amazon page.

Podcaster Mark Turnbull is a friend of our publishing house and, in this new hour-long podcast, he talks with our author Rabbi Joseph Krakoff, head of the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network.

This is a fascinating conversation because both Turnbull and Krakoff began their careers in ministry with congregations. Turnbull is a Protestant minister who moved from serving congregations to his current focus on issues involving the later stages of life. As they talk in this podcast, Krakoff explains that his career has followed a similar path.

Turnbull asks Krakoff what he finds rewarding in this vocational focus.

The rabbi explains that his work allows him to help men and women at a time in life that many people have never paused to consider. “Dying is a life-cycle event—just like birth, bar or bat mitzvah in Judaism or confirmation in Christianity, or a wedding. The life cycle event of dying needs as much attention as the other life cycle events because of the way it affects the individual and family members and friends so significantly.”

However, it’s sometimes challenging to start that kind of conversation and Turnbull asks the rabbi to talk more about the wide range of responses he encounters.

This can be particularly challenging, Krakoff says, with the “half of our community that is unaffiliated, meaning they don’t have a congregation. … When we do reach out, a lot of times we will hear people say, ‘I don’t want a rabbi. I’m not religious and never was.’ But, then, closer to the end, they do want a rabbi, someone to ask about what Judaism says about what happens when we die. … They want to know about verses of the Bible and our teachings around the end and whether there’s something else out there after we die.”

Please, make time to listen to this inspiring hour-long conversation—and please share this with friends.