Human Spirit

Our physical beings
Are so fragile
So vulnerable
Our physical life
As we have come to know it
Can change instantaneously
A fall
A nearby sneeze
Droplets landing indiscriminately
An infection
Mild or life changing

Any number of circumstances
Most beyond our control
Can end or alter our physical life
At any moment.
Motor vehicle crash, earthquake, war
Homicide, injury, abuse, illness 
And untold others.
As people enter their later years
The physical losses are more evident
Our bodies less resilient
But the human spirit
The Human Spirit 
Inspires awe.

The resolve of rescue workers
In Turkey, Syria, NYC
All over the world
Putting their lives at risk
To spare the suffering of others
Human Spirit.

The courage of the silver-haired man
Making his way unassisted
Across the vast floor of the restaurant
Pushing his walker forward
Dragging his thin, bowed legs
One painful step after another
His right ankle randomly turning under
He ventures forth
Smiling and nodding along the way
His spirit unencumbered
His Human Spirit.

The hurried foot steps
Racing down the hospital stairs
Faces of consternation, determination, trepidation
They descend flight after flight
To the Emergency Department
An energy fills the staircase
An energy of love and compassion
So powerful my heart- filled with awe overflows into my eyes
As I stand back, giving them space 
To respond to the call
“Code Blue.  Pediatric.  ED”
Human Spirit undeterred.

The family
Putting their lives on hold
Being there for their dad
Allowing him to remain home
As he nears the end of his life.
Nearing the end, but living fully
Others helping out 
Lending a hand, baking a bread
Saying a prayer
Day after Day after Week after Month
They labor
Out of duty, out of love
The Human Spirit living on.

The Slave Spirituals
A testament beyond measure
To this Spirit
Not extinguished 
By the evils enacted
Upon them by others
“Swing low, sweet chariot . . .”
Spirit of human beings
Oppressed, enslaved in body
But untethered in spirit
Human Spirit.

Human Spirit
despite enduring
Assault, loss, suffering, unimaginable pain
Human Spirit
Who we are
Within our fragile shells
Deep inside our physical selves
That tiny nugget of hope
The fountain of youth, of love
Our truest selves

When we look on in wonder
Look on in awe
And maybe beautiful disbelief
When our hearts leap
 toward the warmth of the flame of the actions of others,
We are witnessing the power of the Human Spirit
And within that Spirit lies hope for our wounded world!

Merely a Vessel

 Dad’s living room 
A mere 16 months ago
I thought it was 2 years!

Finally, it is complete
Later today, we pick up 300 copies
Of my book!
It is a culmination 
Of wisdom and knowledge gained
Over 4+ decades
Of service
4 decades of listening,
Caring, educating,
Relieving suffering,
Telling truth
And giving choices
4 decades of conversations

Labor is over now
Today is delivery day.
So, I lie awake wondering
Is it enough?
Will people benefit from reading it?
Will they hear and understand
That which I passionately believe?
Has it come through 
In the words I have written
And rewritten and rewritten
More times than I care to count
Beta Readers
A fabulous editor
So much has gone into
This sixteen-month gestation.
Today it will be born
No more revisions
No more corrections
So tonight, I am a bit concerned
Like the Christmas Gift
The really special one
That you put your heart and soul into
You are excited to give it
But tremulous also
How will it be received?
This book is my gift
To people everywhere
In hopes it will bring them
Comfort, clarity, meaning and choices
As they face the prospect
Of Life’s Final Journey.
A journey we shall all face

So, as I release this creation
I whisper a prayer
That I have done justice to the topic
That I have honored the hundreds (? thousands) of patients
Who have allowed me to accompany them
On their journeys

I send my words out into the world
Knowing, I am merely a vessel
Meant to pour out for others
What has been given to me
May the words be a blessing 
To all who receive them.



Just a quick note to share some exciting news!! For the past two years, I have been writing a book. It has arisen from my over 4 decades working as a nurse/nurse practitioner. Through writing, I am able to indulge my passion to work to empower people to make their own decisions about how they want to live the final stages of their lives! It is called Navigating Life’s Final Journey Conversations, Choices, Resources

I am picking up the books on Monday! You can learn more about the book and order on my website

or Facebook page Patricia O’Connor, APRN

I hope to put up a picture of the book itself on Monday!!!


Can COVID “ruin” Christmas?

Can war “ruin” Christmas?

Can migrants beseeching entry “ruin” Christmas?

How about the cost to heat our homes?

The dearth of the stock market?

The suffering which abounds in our world today?



The birth of Love

Love in human form

The Christ.


What can destroy love?

What can love eradicate?

Fear, suffering, evil

They chip away at love

Don’t they?


But the flame remains

Maybe deeper in hiding

Trying to protect, shield, withstand

The ravages of hardship


But always, Love can be birthed again

Love is borne

In every gentle touch

Every kind word,

Each compassionate act.



The birthing of love

Can happen

In the face of hate

It Can dispel fear

It Can offer hope.


The gifts offered

To those we love

And those in need

Can bring suffering to its knees

As tears of gratitude and love




An act

A feeling

A response

Love was given in the form of a person

On Christmas Day


Love has been reborn

Again, and again


Christmas is a reminder

To celebrate love

To celebrate hope

To rekindle our flame

And offer it to others.



Cannot be destroyed

But can be offered

To those whose vision

Is cloaked in suffering


Birth love

Find a way

To ignite your own spark

In your own way

Create Christmas

In your heart!


Merry Christmas!


Brilliant white cloaking the yard
Resting upon branches
Bringing beauty to the stark winter woods
Animal footprints
Tracing a path
As they search for sustenance
Ending at the Crab Apple Tree

White frosting clinging to tree trunks 
Set against grey sky

The snow muffles sound
Giving us pause
As roads are cleared
And fires tended
We gather by the fire
Warming hands
Watching flames leap
Coals radiating intense heat

The peace of winter
Moments to pause
To reflect
On the beauty
And preciousness of life
Moments of gratitude
For shelter, heat, nourishment
And love

The peace of winter
Birds visit the feeders
Bringing glimpses of color
As they feast

Holiday lights strung upon rooftops,
On windowsills
Candles lit
Awaiting birth
Announcing Miracle of Light
Bringing hope and beauty to our winter world

Pause the frenetic pace
Of holiday preparations
And breathe
Breathe in the beauty, the peace
The quiet joy
In our winter world

Let peace fill your soul
Warm your heart, your being
And radiate out to our winter world!

Happy Hannukah!
Merry Christmas!!!

Life, Deaths and Resurrections

The Paschal Mystery it is called

In the Catholic Tradition

We live

We suffer

We live again, but differently

We are somehow changed.

How do we embrace the sufferings?

Embrace the deaths?

Knowing, trusting

They are a part of our journey

Leading to true wholeness

To Resurrection

It makes no sense in the moment

As we grieve

Suffering through loss, pain

It makes no sense

That there could be found

A greater healing; a new life

That we could attain a greater whole

As we embrace, accept

And trust

In the path of Mercy.

The dark times

Can seem unending

But, if we can reach out a hand

A smile, a kind word, a loving thought

As we journey our paths

Separate while joined

We might be a thread in another’s resurrection

Sharing our light

In even the smallest way

May bring hope

May help dispel the darkness

Sending in a fragment of life

A firefly to breakthrough the darkness.

May we trust in the mercy of Life

As we travel our own Paschal Mysteries

May we have faith in resurrection

Just as the fragile greens of spring

Open to the lush beauty of summer

As autumns flowers and foliage fade

Into the grays and browns of winter

As the frigid cold and ice cocoon us inside

Until spring arrives once again

So, too, do we travel

Through life, death and resurrection

With each cycle we can journey further

Toward our better, more authentic selves

With each rebirth may we know

greater peace, love and acceptance

May we find hope!

The Velveteen Rabbit

Never brand new again
How do we embrace ourselves?
Accepting our bodies
As life makes it marks
Remains one of life’s greatest challenges.
Our body is a temple
We were told growing up.
A temple
Dwelling place of the holy
It was our job to keep it pure.
To keep it perfect.

How can that be done
Without leaving it in the package?
But can we love without opening
Without touching and embracing 
Without getting a little dirty?

The first time my eldest was injured
I recall the torrent of love
Which flooded by being.
I can also still feel the fear
Fear of loss, of her suffering and of my failure 
to protect her.
That chipped baby tooth
Held all those emotions
While my heart glimpsed a love
Greater than I knew existed.

Our bodies are human
Human ~ not divine
They are mortal and vulnerable
Yes, we can nurture them
Feed them well
Seek peace for our spirit
And movement for out limbs
We can immunize, do our screenings
Take our vitamins
And breathe deeply
Breathe Deeply

But our bodies 
Wear and tear and break
They sag and wrinkle
We sometimes creak and sigh and moan
We sometimes hurt
And it is okay
It is not failure
It is human.

Can we embrace our humanity?
Do we believe the Velveteen Rabbit
Became more real
More loveable
As she lost her velvet sheen?

Is the only way to invest the talents 
We have been given*
To open the package
And dare to live fully
The one life we have been granted.

Broken is not failure
It is a side effect of living.
Broken gives path for light
Illumination for the inner self
The true self

When the exterior wrinkles, sags and cracks
The outer shell is more flexible
Creating room for our true being
To stretch and morph

Pain, suffering is a part of our human existence
Can we accept it
And not fear it
While we work to alleviate it
May it grow within us compassion
For the suffering of the world.

*Matthew 25:14-30

My Grandmother’s Candy Dish!!

The Benedictines

Their smiles radiate warmth and love
Their courage steadfast 
As they persevere in serving
However they are able
But they are aging.
Their hospitality remains beyond compare
In keeping with their vows,
They welcome with open arms
Providing warm, comfortable beds
Peace-filled rooms
Nurturing, tasty meals
Tea and coffee ever ready.

The nuns of today
Are mostly survivors from yesteryear
Few are coming forth
To take their place
To care for them
As they cared for their predecessors

The days of 500 nuns
Living in the Yankton monastery
And others like it
Are past

The massive bread oven remains
Once providing home made sustenance for the breaking of the bread
At hospital, college and monastery
Now must limit to monastery alone
The oven which for some reason paused my breathing
As I stood before it in awe – 
Five rotating shelves 
Baking loaves upon loaves
Still functioning
Baking delicious bread
Created though by the hard work 
Of fewer and fewer nuns

They pray.
They pray for us all
For our world
They have lived lives of service
Who will serve them?
They have given much
Our hospitals, schools and so much more

I believe
The nuns, the sisters
Have been moulding our world
Mostly for the better
For decades now.

We do not know 
What is the power of their prayer
We are not even aware
The many ways they have served

I hope we never need to learn
What our world would be 
Without their service
Without their prayers
Without their love.

Thank you, Benedictine Nuns
Thank you, nuns and sisters all!!

Little Lake Sunapee

Little Lake Sunapee
The Summer of ‘22

Gently cloaked by morning mist
Wisps of white float upward
To the warming sun
They swirl, dancing on the surface
Leaving shimmering ripples to move across the lake
The mist bellows as surface water evaporates
Into the cool autumn like air
Nearly obscuring the distant shore.
Little Sunapee is releasing some of the heat
It courageously absorbed
Over the course of the Summer of ‘22

The outcroppings of orange and red
Flame amongst the tree lined shore
Announcing the coming of fall
The marinas are coming daily now
To tow away the toys of summer
People stop by to say,
“See you next summer”
As they journey south once again.

But Little Sunapee remains
The healing, baptismal waters
Stalwartly fill the lake’s crater
Teeming with life within, atop and beside.
The snappers will dive deep
With the fish who have survived the hunting efforts of
The eagles, mergansers, loons
And patient fishermen.
The loons are still calling
But they shall be departing soon
For waters which will not freeze
The Common Merganser babies continue to glide 
In their trio
They, too, will be venturing to more swiftly flowing unfrozen waters. 
Three still alive
I recall the day when one nearly 
Became lunch for resident eagle
I watched breathlessly as the majestic bird
Swooped down from his hunting perch
High atop a pine on distant shore
Common Merganser youth
Floating peacefully in the boat launch all morning
Though facing shore
She somehow sensed
She flew mere inches above the water
Likely, her maiden flight
Making it to a protected area
Safe from the hungry raptor!

Life of Little Lake Sunapee
The circle of life goes round
As the lake offers life to all. 

The faces of the athletes
Arriving to go on the lake
With their instructors from NEHSA*
Pure, unleashed joy
Expressed so magnificently
By the young man who had no words
But his smile radiated into his eyes
And his hands and arms reached out
In unbridled happy movements
Expressing the joy of his heart
People, unable to move lower limbs,
Lifted into kayaks
To be cradled 
In the healing waters
Of Little Sunapee

The man with barely any use 
Of the left side of his body
Propelling his kayak through the water
With adaptive equipment
Even with his head bent down
His smile could be seen
Then, as she helped him from the kayak
His instructor offered him a swim
The day, sweltering in oppressive 90’s
The gentleman expressed doubt in his ability
But trusted the generous guide
Lifejacket intact
He moved himself, floating atop the water
Free, unencumbered
No canes, no brace
Freely moving
In the healing waters
Of Little Lake Sunapee
The foursome arriving from VT
Hassled, harried
Snapping at each other
They pushed through their edges
And launched their kayaks
Faces grim, angry even
As they entered the waters
Without seeing the welcome

Two hours later,
They emerged
Faces transformed
Laughing, joking
Filled with the fresh air of nature
Speaking of the loons,
The wind, and the fun.
Healed by the lake.

The pregnant woman
Carefully watching James and Charles
As they delighted in paddling at water’s edge
Never tiring of their play
Returning another day
With new baby sister
Sleeping, snugly cocooned upon mom’s chest
The boys entering with glee once again
As new life comes to the welcoming waters
Of the Little Lake

Early summer adventures
As Momma Merganser
Tried to teach babies how to scale the wall and enter the lake
How did they know after trying for half an hour,
How did they know
To enter the woods and walk around the little waterfall
How did they know
And what gave them the persistence to keep trying for so long
Despite knowing there was an easier way?

The haunting, compelling call of the loons
Their beauty
They call Little Sunapee one of their summer homes
And such loved residents they are.

The dogs, oh the dogs!
Zoey, who danced circles of joy
From car to water
So excited every time she came
To enter the magical waters
The shepherd, Jada
Gathering rocks
Over and over
Bigger and bigger
Day after day
Too cool to dance
Making a beeline
Needing to cool her fur covered body 
Going straight into the soothing waters
Without so much as a 
“How do you do?”

So many lives enriched
So much life nourished
Untold healing
Happened at the waters of Little Lake Sunapee
The Summer of ‘22
What an honor
What a privilege it has been
To stand witness
To a tiny portion
Of the life-giving waters
Of this beautiful lake.

May we all work
To keep her healthy
To grant her continued life
As she continues ever to give life to all!

Pat O’Connor

*New England Healing Sports Association

Sacred Wounds

We all bear wounds

They mark suffering we have borne

Suffering we are bearing

Wounds, when sacred

Can reach into the soul

Wounds can open us

To our world

To humanity

To mortality

To a strength beyond our knowing

To find that passageway

You merely need to probe the tender

Gently, with compassion

Touch, Explore the wound you carry

Where does it go to?

What gives it power to cause suffering?

What mysteries may lie

Under the ineffective scar

Which we present to the world?

Sacred Wounds

Explore with curiosity

And compassion

Wallow not in the pain

But feel it, see it, and touch it

With a heart of compassion

Then, embracing it

As a part of you

Carry on


In your wounds, your suffering

There can be found

Wisdom, acceptance and forgiveness

Of self

Which brings to the world

Compassion, understanding and kindness

Sacred Wounds

Don’t run

Don’t hide

Be present and listen

To the wisdom of the wound

Breathe and accept

The healing power of the wound.