Virtual Memorial Service for Ellen Scheiner, M.D., 1932-2008

“Why a memorial service now,”   you ask. “Ellen died in 2008.”

That, of course, is true, in earth-speak.  But Ellen, in spirit, remains very present and  active in the lives of those she loved.  One of the places where she led me was to attend One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York, to become an interfaith minister.  Our classes for this month have included writing memorial services, and who better for me to honor in my first memorial service than my beloved late partner, Ellen?

My relationship with Ellen was complete. She changed my life in many ways, including leading me to believe in the realm of Spirit. And, as one must do when one partner has moved to Spirit, I, the remaining one, have mourned and moved on. I am now happily married to Nancy, whom I love with my whole heart. My vision is on the present, and my hope lies in the future. The past is the past — done, and celebrated.  I hope those of you who knew and loved Ellen will celebrate with me that you experienced her brilliant love.  And I hope that those who didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Ellen in this life will nevertheless enjoy learning about her in the writings embedded in this “virtual memorial service.” 

Rosemary

 

 Service in Memory of Ellen Scheiner, M.D.

1932-2008

 

Introduction

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Today is not a special anniversary or calendar occasion.  But, like every other day, it’s an appropriate moment to celebrate Ellen’s gifts to us.   Ellen’s  legacy of love and awareness continue to bless  her friends and family every day.  We carry her with us in our hearts and in our spirits, as she continues, three plus years after her death, to light up our lives as we grow in the awareness she shared with us.  We were amazingly fortunate  to have known and loved her. 

This is a “virtual” memorial service, designed to be posted on a blog, so that together, yet in their own time and space,  her friends and family members can celebrate having had Ellen in our lives

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MEDITATIVE MOMENT

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I invite you to  join me in  the silence within us.  Relax and let your chair support you.  Slow your breathing, and deepen it.  Breathe in the love of God.  Breathe out all tension and anxiety.  Breathe in love.  Breathe out tension.  Feel yourself inside opening up to the Divine Source that we all share.  Feel the support and love that circulates in and through you like a beautiful  woodwind ensemble.  You hear the breath of God in the bright, yet mellow woodwind tones.  You feel the light’s warmth.  You smell the glorious fragrance of your favorite flowers.

 Ellen, whose life we celebrate today, said that she always heard  music in her head, no matter what was going on.  She could change the station at will, sometimes hearing rock, and other times a  symphony by Beethoven or Brahms.  She knew by heart every important piece of Renassance, Baroque, and classical music, and when a piece started on the radio, she could name it after the first three notes.  In your relaxation, join Ellen in listening to your favorite music on the station in your imagination.  Relax into its rhythm and its feelings.  Know that you and Ellen are enjoying this moment in unison, straddling the physical and the spirit worlds.   (Pause) 

Against this pleasing background, hear the words of Psalm 85 ringing out in your mind and your heart, as you  open your heart to love. 

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READING:  From Psalm 85

Listen to people in the silent chapel of your heart; and the Beloved will speak of peace to you, to the hidden saints, to all who turn their hearts to love. ..

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;

Righteousness and peace will embrace one another,

Wisdom will spring up from the ground,

And truth will look down from the sky.  Yes, the eternal Giver will grant what is good, and the lands will yield abundantly. 

Mercy and compassion are Love’s way; you will guide our footsteps on the path of peace as we recognize with open hearts that you are our peace.

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TESTIMONIALS:  REMEMBERING ELLEN:

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After Ellen’s death, many of her  friends and acquaintances testified eloquently to the impression she had made on them – from those who’d known her for only a few days or weeks, to lifelong friends.  Here are a few  of those testimonials, invoking again for us Ellen’s marvelous brain, her enormously loving heart, her strong desire to love and heal everyone, her courage in the face of disability and pain, and, not least, her spiritual triumph as she continued to seek – and as she found —  enlightenment : 

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From the contractor who remodeled the bathroom in the summer and fall of 2008: 

November 17, 2008.  Ellen had an energy about her that made her seem like a long lost, wise aunt. There was something about the attention that she gave you when you were speaking with her that made all the formalities, walls and insecurities, melt away. In the short time that I knew Ellen she demanded the best out of those around her, not in a forceful way, but in a way that made you want to be better at whatever it is that you do. I was fortunate to spend some time with Ellen in her final days. She was full of life, passionate, insightful, and caring. One of my fondest memories was a day when one of my employees installed a new kitchen faucet for her. She was so excited to try it out and was not quite sure how to operate it that as she turned to the plumber to ask him how it worked she pushed the spray button and sprayed him head to toe. Even though it was purely a mistake, I think she kept spraying him even after she realized it because she found it funny. She had a bit of that playful mischief in her 🙂 We must have laughed like giddy school children for an hour straight. My plumber knew her from only a few occasions. When I told him of her passing, his eyes welled up with tears. 
That was Ellen… Quick to the heart. Rest in Peace, you wonderful soul.  

Chris Zoubek (Chapel Hill, NC) 

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From a long-time friend: 

Ellen was one of the most joyful people I have ever known.  She loved loving, she loved music, she loved art and poetry, and she even loved being miserable.  She loved whatever  she could articulate and understand.  She was combative, competitive and brave. She turned her disability into a source of determination and pride.  She wanted to share her story.  After her retirement from Memorial Sloan Kettering, she wanted to share her pride as a lesbian and cancer survivor.  She found Rosemary.  She finally, for the last years of her life, was able to be happy, not only about surviving her misery, but about just being happy. 

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Pamela White Hadas

Albuquerque, NM

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From a friend who had started as Ellen’s personal assistant: 

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Within minutes of an introduction, I was sitting across from Ellen in the sunny kitchen, filling the tiny vitamin cells with weeks’ worth of medication and supplements and palliatives. Despite what must have been a heroic effort to feign disinterest in my progress, Ellen betrayed herself and her keen mind by interrupting me while I was in the midst of making a potential mistake.

“You’ve very diligent,” she said, fixing my eye with her gaze. She glanced down in the most subtly obvious of ways, tracing a path to the pill (which I just then saw to be redundant) in my hand. I palmed it as she looked back at my face.

I was only dimly aware that I was dealing with someone who had trained a host of medical care providers, both those in her charge and those for whom she was an impatient, but I did immediately sense that, well, the “game was on.” Ellen Scheiner was a different – stranger — creature than I had expected. She was fire and water and I would find it impossible to overestimate her.

Shane Wallace, Albuquerque NM

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POEMS:  REMEMBERING ELLEN, by Rosemary

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After Ellen died,unexpectedly, on November 5, 2008, I felt as though my soul had been  ripped in half.  She was my soulmate and my spiritual teacher.  Many of you will remember that I wrote hundreds of poems as I mourned, stricken, and then, finally, began to build  a new life on the other side of her death.  In the two following poems, written a few months after Ellen left the earth, I reflected on  what I had learned  from her, and also what many, many others had also  learned from knowing her.  Ellen’s  legacy was powerful and uplifting to many, because  she  loved us well and deeply. 

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Legacy of Loving,  January 13, 2009

Loving changes souls,

Leaves a legacy behind,

A challenge to live up to now —

Apart, alone.

What gifts did my Beloved  leave?

We’re rich, her heirs.

She taught us to enjoy the Now,

To spend time with friends,

To see how people were and give them leave to talk, 

To know always that this life was temporary– 

That truth lay beyond —

To bless pain and step aside to watch it pass,

To hug and kiss and love with all our hearts,

To smile, jumping up and down with glee like happy children.

 

As her soul-family, we now fan out to

Share her wealth with all we meet.

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Student  January 29 2009

How can I list all I learned with you, Beloved?

I take your lessons with me,

To share with others.

 

Compassionate caring:

Feeling with another’s feelings,

Understanding suffering and pain

And answering with love. 

 

Appreciative respect: 

Knowing the beauty of simplicity,

Learning to want less,

Respecting  burnished objects

And feeling their imbuing spirit.

 

Smiling enthusiasm:

Welcoming with open arms,

Telling inner truths

And blessing people. 

 

Steadfast courage:

Facing each moment  without cringing,

And learning from its challenge. 

 

I was still a student when you left –

I haven’t graduated yet.

I hope and pray for guidance to

Still find the way, as I walk on.

Brief Eulogy: Ellen Then and Now

The few excerpts I cited above were taken from among dozens and dozens of memories that people sent to me after Ellen’s death – enough to fill a truly engrossing book. Ellen was  a strikingly powerful spirit, whose loving presence gripped everyone immediately upon meeting her. She imbued our house, as she had also done in her 14th St. loft, with a loving, welcoming spirit so strong that people invented excuses to stop by and spend long periods basking in its comforting peace. Thanks to Ellen’s magnetism, our house became the ideal of home, complete with cookie jar and well-stocked fridge, that drew people from across town and across the country. I loved the constant stream of clients, visitors, workpeople, teachers, and colleagues, all of whom instantly became family the moment they crossed the threshold.  I’ll never forget finding an old friend of Ellen’s who had “stopped by” from Colorado, rummaging in all the kitchen cabinets. I asked if I could help her find something, and she replied, to my astonishment,  “Where’s your stash?”

Among Ellen’s friends were artists, nomads, world-renowned doctors, students, professors, playwrights, street people, prize-winning scientists and working people of all kind —  people who were hurting and came to her for healing just as often as people who simply  knew they loved Ellen and wanted to spend as much time as possible with her. 

Ellen had lived with an obvious disability, a paralyzed, disfigured  arm and hand, from birth. Amazingly, most people never noticed it, although she herself was intensely conscious of it, and felt a deep shame about it.  No one learned about her feelings, except, glancingly, in a couple of her poems.  She wrought the magic of doing everything so apparently  effortlessly with one hand that no one noticed she couldn’t use the other. It was only in her last months, as she let go into divine consciousness, that she forgave everyone in her life and also opened up to accept how she had felt all her life, that she started to share those feelings.

In one of her poems, she speaks eloquently about her sense of shame:

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Making Change at the Supermarket

She puts the change and the receipt in my left hand,

[The only one that works.]

What to do?

How to separate them

Without putting them down.

How to put the money in my wallet

Without spreading it on the counter

To pick it all up again,

With one hand.

 

Behind me on the line the others wait ,

Watching me will the coins into my purse.

Fearful lest I take too much time,

I silently order the bills to be in sequence,

I pray that they will align themselves easily,

So there is no need to sort them.

My will cajoles them into my wallet

Lest they notice, enraged,

That my little right arm is still, paralyzed, ashamed.

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Ellen Scheiner- Feb. 19, 1991

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Ellen wrote about 40 wonderful poems, many of them Haikus – a discipline she enjoyed tremendously.  She loved the opportunity they offered to say the world in 17 syllables – precise, perfect, and  prescient. 

I could write a book about the Ellen whose life we are celebrating today. I’ve probably written one in pieces, in fact.   I envision that I will finish and publish it in its right time.  

The most Important thing to tell about Ellen today, however, is the transcendent way in which she has continued to influence the lives of many who knew her. Immediately after her death, and for several months, she continued to speak to several of those who had been close to her.  Her creativity was – as always —  enormous.  She had always loved electronic media, and, characteristically, she found impossible ways to use her cell phone, Instant Messaging, and Facebook for ongoing individual communications.  She was wise , always including in her “to” list two or more people widely separated physically and not generally in touch with each other  — until we had both received a message obviously from Ellen in present time (i.e., after she’d died).  One of her young friends called me one day  and accused me of somehow messing with her computer, telling me to STOP WHATEVER I WAS DOING!!!!  I protested my innocence, and we had to conclude that the messages we’d both received were genuinely from  Ellen. I’d already concluded that I was receiving credible real time messages, as they arrived almost daily for several months.  Ellen was very very clear that —  despite having believed, as many Jews do, that after death that was all – the end – she had transitioned to a wonderful, beautiful spiritual place, and was more than doing well.  She was Kvelling!! 

She finally figured out how to communicate directly with me.  Intuitively, I came to know I could ask her anything, and she’d answer – and the messages, voiceless but couched in words, were not coming from my imagination.  They were totally clear and totally independent of me, although I perceived them mentally.  The feeling, at first, was akin to when I was pregnant, and for months before my daughter was born, she had the hiccups numerous times a day.  Those hiccups were in me, but they weren’t me or mine. The same has been true of Ellen’s communications.

 Interestingly, over time, I’ve received many messages, and they’ve often been startlingly relevant and immediate.  One, in January 2012 was, “Sell the house!!!!”  It was urgently urgent.  I had to pay attention.  The housing market was at rock bottom – in appearance it was a terrible time to sell.  But that house was, at over 3300 square feet, way too big for one person, and it was more expensive to maintain than I was able to handle easily.  Motivated by that message, I found a realtor, followed her explicit directions for preparing the house, got it on the market, found the perfect other house for me to move in to, received multiple  bids 3 days after my house  went on the market, and almost simultaneously made a bid on the new house the day it went on the market.  The old house sold for cash, at an elevated price (having incited a bidding war), three days before the cash for the new house that I was buying outright was due at the closing for the new house.  Within a total of 6 weeks, I sold one house for more than the asking price and bought a second house with cash from that sale.  It wasn’t possible.  But it happened.  It was wonderful –  exactly what I needed to have happen, although I hadn’t even acknowledged that yet before receiving the message to  “SELL THE HOUSE!!!!!”   

There have been these amazing, impossible events, and there has also been for me an incredible awakening to spirit, to the meaning and purpose of life, and  to the beauty and wonder of transitioning back into spirit.  I have also re-experienced being called to minister to others, to take sacred leadership in sharing the Divine with people who come under my care as they seek to know God.

 At the conclusion of my first year of seminary, we experienced a ceremony in which we called on Spirit to send us the one who would shepherd us toward ordination, and who would personify our call to ministry.  Ellen was my vision.  She came to me, surrounded by bright light. The name Ellen, from the Greek, “Ele,” means “bright light,” a fact she had told me while still in this life.  Her last name, Scheiner, from Yiddish “Scheyner”, also meant “Light.”  She was, in fact, doubly named for the Light. In my vision, she brought me into the light that surrounded her, and bestowed on me, as well, the Spirit Name “Light.”  That was given to me —  my essence as a spiritual leader, under Ellen’s tutelage.  I felt supremely honored, to have received directly from Ellen, my dear “Bubbele,” my calling and my mission, and to have been given her spirit as my mentor and guide. 

Along the way, Ellen told me she had selected my new partner, the person who would care for me in her place.  Sure enough, Nancy appeared, miraculously – Nancy who had lived in New York for 30 years, and whose life had shadowed Ellen’s – they even had many of  the same friends, although in this life Ellen and Nancy didn’t actually know each other (we’re sure they were more than once– perhaps often —  in the same places at the same times).

Today, I am delighted to celebrate and honor Ellen both as we knew her in the physical, and as she now, in spirit, continues to provide guidance and support to those she loved here, and – for all we know – to many others who did not meet her in this lifetime but nevertheless benefit from her loving attention. I know that all of us who loved her here are sharing with others in our lives what she taught us. What better testimonial can there be to a life exquisitely well lived?  In the words of poet Mary Oliver, Ellen lived deeply and fully.  She didn’t just spend her time on earth as a tourist. 

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POEM:  “When death comes,” by Mary Oliver

 (Recite with background piano music, live or recorded.  See website http://www.panhala.net/Archive/When_Death_Comes.html )

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

 

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

 

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

 

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

 

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

 

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

 

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

 

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

 

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

 

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

 

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

 

~ Mary Oliver ~

 

 

(New and Selected Poems, Volume I)

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I’d like to share with you  one more poem that describes beautifully the way that Ellen’s life led her back to her true home with Spirit, despite her belief that there was nothing more after physical death. In the last few months before Ellen died, everyone who saw her commented on how much improved in health she seemed.  She was almost glowing.  She became more and more powerful and strong.  We all felt this gathering strength in her, and mistook it for a miraculous physical cure.  Instead, it was a miraculous spiritual cure – she was morphing into pure spirit while still in our midst. 

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POEM:  “Good morning, Grandfather,” by JYOTI

 

 

Good morning, Grandfather.

I entered this life a ways back

and put skin on to walk two-legged on this Creation–

and what a glorious time it was.

 

It taught me about breath

and about sensing and feeling and caring through my heart.

And I walked on around that Red Road,

looking and trying to understand more

about the mystery and the secrets She holds.

 

And You spoke to me through the wind,

and You sang to me through the birds.

And you brought challenges forth so that

I might listen to the message

You bring me more sincerely.

And I kept walking down this road.

 

And I came ’round a bend

and the middle of that curve in the road

And I began to find a secret in the Spirit of my Self…

And still I walked on, sometimes blind and deaf,

and sometimes with pain.

But I fought with my fears and I embraced my unknowingness–

and still I walked on.

And my children and my family stood with me

and we came to know each other in those later years

more than we had before–

for some of our falseness had fallen away–

and still I walked on.

 

And I kept walking on this road towards You,

towards that other world that grew closer to me with each step.

And as the door of the Great Spirit world came closer

my fear loomed up inside sometimes…

 

But something called me forth–

the Morning Star rose with each day–

and my prayer became a centering–and still I walked on,

until I began to hear the Song of the Mother,

and Her arms embraced me so,

that instead of walking She carried me right to the door.

And as the door opened, I heard her Song,

And Her Song lifted me up,

so I could soar.

from: Graceful Passages (CD and book set)

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Khaddish, the Jewish Prayer after a Death

Although Ellen studied and practiced Theravadan Buddhism for over 30 years, she was born, as she remained at heart, a Jew.  She was a rebellious Jew, because she had felt as a young child that she was unfairly discriminated against as a girl.  She wanted to go to temple as did the men, sitting in the main hall and openly worshipping the Divine.  Instead, she had to sit upstairs behind a curtain with the women. At the age of 7, she protested formally to her father, and said she no longer would go to Synagogue, until she could be with the men, accepted openly as a fully qualified worshipper.  Her father, apparently aware of the amazing spirit and mind of his daughter, officially dispensed her from going to Synagogue any more.  And she never did again on any regular basis.    However, to honor the spirit of this strong Jewish woman, it seems appropriate — as we approach the end of this memorial – to say  Khaddish, the Jewish prayer that reveres G_d in all His power.

 

KHADDISH 

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Exalted and hallowed be His great Name. (Congregation responds: “Amen.”)

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Throughout the world which He has created according to His Will. May He establish His kingship, bring forth His redemption and hasten the coming of His Moshiach. (Cong: “Amen.”)

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In your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the entire House of Israel, sword, famine and death shall cease from us and from the entire Jewish nation, speedily and soon, and say, Amen.

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(Cong: “Amen. May His great Name be blessed forever and to all eternity, blessed.”)

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May His great Name be blessed forever and to all eternity. Blessed and praised, glorified, exalted and extolled, honored, adored and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He. (Cong: “Amen.”)

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Beyond all the blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in the world; and say, Amen. (Cong: “Amen.”)

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May there be abundant peace from heaven, and a good life for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen. (Cong: “Amen.”)

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He Who makes peace  in His heavens, may He make peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen. (Cong: “Amen.”)

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Recessional

Now, having praised the Divine in Ellen’s honor, let us leave this shared place of Spirit, singing within our minds and hearts the wonderful song, “Oh when the Saints go Marching in.”  In our singing, we feel gratitude for the saints who have blessed us in this life, including our beloved Ellen. 

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Oh, when the saints go marching in
Oh, when the saints go marching in
Lord how I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in

And when the sun begins to shine
And when the sun begins to shine
Lord, how I want to be in that number
When the sun begins to shine

Oh, when the trumpet sounds its call
Oh, when the trumpet sounds its call
Lord, how I want to be in that number
When the trumpet sounds its call

Oh, when the saints go marching in
Oh, when the saints go marching in
Lord how I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in

           

 

  

About Rev. Rosemary Hyde, Ph.D.

I am a grandmother, a classical homeopath, a mystical poet, and an interfaith minister. I also have a large, enduring place in my heart for Paris. I first spent time in Paris in 1961, as a Fulbright scholar. I remained in France for three years, living also in Toulouse and in Nancy. I have revisited France and Paris multiple times since then, and have come to know central Paris reasonably well. I grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where there were many Franco-Americans, and their language fascinated me. I was fortunate in 6th grade, when my family moved, to find myself in a Catholic French speaking girls' school, where I had the wonderful fortune of becoming bilingual. It still feeds my soul deeply, to visit Paris, speak French, and reconnect with the little French girl in me. I am serving presently as co-minister at Unity Center of Peace in Chapel Hill, NC. I give talks one or two Sundays a month -- please go to the website, www.unitychapelhill.org, and sign up for the weekly e-news to learn what's going on -- special events, seasonal interfaith ceremonies, and Sunday themes and talks. My vision for the Unity Chapel Hill ministry and for myself is to become a loving, uniting presence in the lives of all those who cross paths with us. That's all there is, really -- loving presence. And so it is. Amen. My goal as a minister is to add richness to life for those who resonate to more than one religious tradition or to none -- those with mixed religions as well as the unchurched, untempled, and unmosqued. All of us, whatever our cultural allegiances, hunger for and need support in finding the transcendent joy that's ours to find in this earthly life. All of us need and want to celebrate beautifully the great and small milemarker moments. All of us crave the beauty of prayer as an expression of our participation in universal love. All of us wish to learn a greater vision, to see our lives opening to the Divine. All of us desire deeply to find serenity and peace that lasts no matter what happens today and tomorrow. This is the meaning of Transcendessence. We find the essence of spirit and transcend the narrow constraints of our bodies and egos. Join us today by subscribing, so you won't miss a single poem, message, prayer, or meditation.
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