Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti: When prayers are not enough

I recently started a new job at the Memorial Healthcare System. Today, I met with the nurse manager on the oncology floor in the hospital to introduce myself and the services I provide to cancer patients and their families. She was very warm and caring, and immediately expressed her concern about some of her nurses who have family in Haiti. We will coordinate a grief workshop for these nurses next week, once they have hopefully established contact with their families. Many of them will not have good news.

How immensely sad and poignant. These are dedicated nurses, caring for cancer patients day in and day out. Many of these patients are actively dying or close to it, some of them hospitalized for intensive chemotherapies and sick 24/7. Yet there is no exemption for these nurses. Despite their selflessness and dedication, they have had family members gone missing, dead, or injured back at home. No doubt, some of these nurses are the breadwinners for extensive family networks and have left childhood environments few of us can fathom.

I was reminded yet again of the awful and inescapable truth of the Nine Charnel Ground Contemplations, the mindfulness practice taught by the Buddha to be practiced in the face of death and decay: "This body is like that, it too if of that nature, none of us are exempt from that fate."

I said a prayer of healing, compassion, and for rebirth into the Pure Land for those whom it was appropriate, but prayers are not enough. Please consider a more active form of helping and giving: