Another shooting?

Whatever the reason…
Whoever has done this…
I do not understand.
I feel helpless…
The loss of lives, the stunned survivors…

I cannot make excuses or place blame.
(But, God, how I want to!)
My anger rises at the impotent lawmakers,
The greed of the gun lobbyists…

My heart can only cry out,

How many votives will I light?
How long will it take to light them?
And then… to watch them flicker out,
one by one by one…
life by life by life…

My heart can only cry out,

I have no words…

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I have
no words
to share
what’s on my heart.
I have only
and prayers,
and the promise
that You, O Lord,
will walk through this valley
with me.

I have
no wisdom
to give
in this place of grief.
I have only
and tissues,
and the blessing
of knowing Your peace,
as our hearts
are in pieces.

I have
no tears
to cry
because (quite honestly) my well is dry.
I have only
the promise
of the resurrection
and that You, O Lord,
watch our laboring steps
and shower us
with Love.

Rev. Deb Vaughn
June 26, 2016

The floodwaters will not overwhelm you

But now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
Isaiah 43:1-3a The Voice


Lake Needwood. Photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn

Lake Needwood. Photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn

Lake Needwood, flooded. Photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn

Lake Needwood Photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn

I make it a habit when I’m on my rounds to stop for a few minutes, here and there, take a break, and do some charting in a beautiful setting. The last time I was here at Lake Needwood, the water levels were much lower!

I was surprised today when I saw how high the floodwaters were. It occurred to me that many times, we don’t realize how circumstances have overwhelmed or challenged us. Certainly with my hospice patients and their families, the overwhelming grief and worry piles up higher and higher, and many times we might not  realize how difficult things have been.

So, I took a little self assessment, just to remind myself where I needed some relief, and where perhaps, the floodwaters or stressors are taxing me more than I realize. 

Flood zone. Lake Needwood. Photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn

Flood zone. Lake Needwood. Photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn

Maybe you’re in a “flood zone” of sorts right now. Take a moment. Breathe deeply. Say a prayer. Find some refreshment for your heart and courage for your soul. 

You are a beloved creation of God. You’re worth it. 



In our chaplain’s office, we have a small corner for reflection and prayer. There’s a hand labyrinth, some prayer stones to hold as you meditate, and a bowl of memorial rocks. There’s also a small electric candle and a book of prayers.

Some weeks, I need to spend more time in reflection and recovery when a patient dies. Yes, I am a hospice chaplain. And yes, this is part of the work that I do. But depending on a number of factors, it can be harder than usual when I see the notification come across on my email. Logistically, sometimes I can’t be present at the time of death because I’m caring for another patient, another family.

This week I said good-bye to two lovely patients. Yes, they were in hospice and it wasn’t unexpected. But it was still a loss for their families. I heard their stories and their dreams. I felt their grief bubble up, and tried to keep my own feelings checked so that I could help them experience and process their own. I focused on their sources of hope and faith, on the places where they see The Eternal One at work.

And then, I needed to sit with my own feelings, and rest in my own faith. I accept that beauty comes with pain, and joy will come in the morning. I pray and breathe. And… Remember.

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Don’t run away from grief, o soul,
Look for the remedy inside the pain,
because the rose came from the thorn
and the ruby came from a stone.


Blessed be.

She Takes Flight: A Prayer in Memoriam


She rests in peace.
Her soul takes flight
into the Arms of the One
who knew her best
who loves her now.

For those whose tears are flowing
and hearts are broken,
I pray for comfort,
for peace to surround them,
for grief to ease.

Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine
Et lux perpetua luceat ei:
Requiescat in pace.

Eternal rest, grant unto her, O LORD,
And let perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.

Sunday Night Meditation: Not Right Now


As the Queen of “Open-My-Mouth-To-Change-Feet” I was encouraged and challenged by this song. Sung by Jason Gray, it is a simple reminder to “listen twice, talk once.”

You could see the smoke from a mile away
And trouble always draws a crowd
They want to tell me that it’ll be okay
But that’s not what I need right now
Not while my house is burning down

I know someday
I know somehow
I’ll be okay
But not right now

Tell me if the hope that you know is true
Ever feels like a lie even from a friend
When their words are salt in an open wound
And they just can’t seem to understand
That you haven’t even stopped the bleeding yet

I know someday
I know somehow
I’ll be okay
But not right now

Don’t tell me when I’m grieving
That this happened for a reason
Maybe one day we’ll talk about the dreams that had to die
For new ones to come alive
But not right now

I know someday
I know somehow
I’ll be okay
But not right now

While I wait for the smoke to clear
You don’t even have to speak
Just sit with me in the ashes here
And together we can pray for peace
To the one acquainted with our grief

I know someday
I know somehow
I’ll be okay
But not right now


Book Review: All That Bright Light — A story of love, murder and healing


Courtesy of Michelle Basch, WTOP Radio

The cover shows a blurred image of balloons rising over a football field at sunset. It was a sight that must have been viewed through eyes blurred by tears at the Rockville High School stadium that night.

The friends, family and teachers of Michelle Miller gathered to offer words of hope, grief and joy, even as they struggled to understand why a 31 year old Army recruiter, Adam Arndt, shot first Miller and then himself in a murder-suicide. They lofted helium balloons with messages of love, hope and courage.

“Release the balloons,” a clear, young voice booms through the sound system.

We have been waiting for this moment. It is truly awesome as hundreds of brightly colored balloons seem to light up the sky as they float through the last rays of fading sunlight.

For a few moments the stadium is silent as we all watch our balloons, which like Michelle’s bright spirit, are now heading for the heavens. (All That Bright Light, page 28).

Coming to grips with a loss this devastating seems impossible. How does one find a way to make sense of it? Why did a young woman, full of joy, vibrancy and promise, have her life ended in such a brutal way? How do you embrace your faith, your family and your sense of fairness? What do you do when you feel that justice has not been served? Can you forgive? How do you forgive?

These and other questions flow thoughtfully and with reflective  realism from the author, Alice Miller. A psychotherapist, she has  been the consoler and counselor to others who were in deep grief. Now, just weeks before her beloved granddaughter, nicknamed Lulu, was to graduate from high school, she was killed by the 31-year-old Army sergeant who recruited her for an Army ROTC program.

This is a story that breaks the heart. And it is a story of conflict between the Army and a heartbroken family.

Alice shares her personal journals from this tragedy, from the moments they found out that Michelle was dead, to the grim details of her death. She talks about the outpouring of love, meals and care that surrounded the family. She writes of her own grieving process, one that she fully understands is not over.

Grief, I have learned, is like a cocoon, which from the beginning has encased me in its pain. Now, gradually I need to learn to emerge from that sorrow if I am every again to fully embrace life. The hole in my heart may never go away, But time, I believe will smooth the rough edges. The hole, however, remains. (All That Bright Light, page 128)

The title is taken from the words spoken by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis when she responded to the outpouring of love and condolences upon the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. All his bright light has gone from the world. All of you who have written to me know how much we all loved him and that he returned that love in full measure.”

When someone is murdered, the spark of their love and life is no more. At least, not on this planet. As Miller writes,

“Your bright light may be gone from this world but I know that it will shine through into the next.”

For those who have experienced this kind of traumatic loss, you will find a companion in the grief and anger that the author knows so well. For those who wonder at the ways that injustice, especially when accompanied by crimes of rape and physical assault, you will hear the passionate plea for accountability. For those of us who are parents, there is the practical reminder to go home and hug our children and those we love.

I recommend this book. Though Alice finds peace through her Christian faith, she does not insist that you follow her path. She offers perspective through her own pain and grieving. She admits where she is struggling and invites you to carry your own losses with realism and honesty.

All That Bright Light  underscores the simple reminder that we need one another. We also need to stand up for those who have been rendered voiceless by other’s criminal acts. And most of all, we need to give one another space, time, and comfort to grieve and grow through these difficult losses.

The lessons from this book reminded me of this quote from Mother Teresa:

“Spread love everywhere you go: First of all in your own house…let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

So may it be.

All That Bright Light: A Story of Love, Murder and Healing, by Alice G. Miller. Self-published. November, 2013. Available on Amazon.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”