I was a new hospice chaplain in 2009 when I began visiting people who were dying, and meeting with families and friends who were grieving. I went to seminary at age 50, trusting and believing I was called to be with people at the end of life and with those who grieved a loss.
I wasn’t new to grief. I knew her well, like the back of my hand. A dad who died when I was in my early 20s in a tragic accident, coupled with a failed marriage, and the loss of important relationships in my youth, made me an expert in living with grief. These broken places in my life have made me a better pastor and wiser chaplain to sit with the broken places of others.
In those first years of chaplaincy, I realized that people dying and familes grieving needed ritual in their lives more than ever. Ritual is how we make meaning in the day to day living life. Stopping to have that ritual cup of tea. Journal writing. Taking a walk. Prayer is ritual, whether it is with a mala, a rosary, a song, a meditation, yoga, simply in silence, or however you carve out meditation time and by whatever you find meaningful.
I came to realize that, as chaplain, I was being invited into the homes of people dying, I needed to explore ways to connect these people I was serving with the sacred and holy. After visiting with a herbalist in Denver, who understood the places of the sacred, I started bringing anointing oil with me during visits with patients, and discovered a 21st century language of using the ancient practice of anointing. In some circles, this oil is a symbol of God, in other circles it is a reminder that God, or Spirit, or how ever you identify with the holy and sacred, is here with us.
I anointed those who were actively dying, and died as I was anointing and praying. I anointed families, babies to grown children who gathered in a circle around the bed of a dying mother and grandmother. I anointed a woman who died, and then I invited her daughter to anoint her too. I expanded to use anointing in the form of essential oils in sprays with patients I visited who had Alzheimer’s. I showed family members how to use body butters and massage the hands of their loved ones, connecting each other with the human touch of compassion and care.
“Nancy embodies a soul midwife. She uses ancient practices, with reverence, intention, passion and courage, as she weaves in the use of herbal products and aromatherapy to honor the sacred transition of death and dying.”
— Tonja Reichley, former owner of a botanical shop in Denver, CO
In these spaces of suffering and joy, heartbreak and happiness, Anoint was born. Since Anoint was born, I completed my spiritual direction formation and am a Certified Spiritual Director. And just recently I completed my First Degree Reike Certification. I'm excited to see how Reike, spiritual direction, being an ordained clergywoman, and Anoint all come together!
Thanks for visiting, and let's have a virtual cup of tea together soon.
Contact me if you would like to schedule an Anoint visit to your community, hospice, palliative care program, assisted living facility, nursing home, church, synagogue, or mosque for a demonstration on Anoint products and services. I've started a spiritual direction practice, as well as a Reike practice, and would love to hear from you if you are looking for a spiritual director, or a Reike practitioner.