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A Child's Wisdom

By Kathy Hendricks

The other day, my grandson, Clay, asked to sing a song for me. When I happily accepted, he paused and then explained that he was “brain dead” and had to wait for the words to come. After finding them, he proceeded with a sweet, if hard-to-decipher, song about the Statue of Liberty that he learned from an online video.

Since then, I keep thinking about being brain dead. There have been way too many instances when I haven’t let it stop me from launching into some ill-informed tirade or to caterwauling without any sense of harmony, rhythm, or nuance. Today’s access to streaming news and its accompanying commentaries generates a certain communal stupor. This, in turn, drains the heart and mind. Clay’s innate understanding of the need to pause until the words come is one of those nuggets of wisdom that only a three-year-old could impart.

We just passed through a sacred triad of days around death : All Hallows (Halloween), All Saints, and Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead (All Souls Day for those in the Catholic tradition). It’s one of those “thin times” in Celtic spirituality that blur the boundaries between the living and the dead. Gregory Boyle describes this beautifully when he writes, “There is no such thing as a dead person, only a dead body.” Deadness doesn’t just occur, however, when all physical abilities cease. How many of us are rendered brain dead by relentless activity, perpetual resentment, fear, or cynicism, or just plain boredom?

In this Still Blooming phase of life, I find myself drawing toward the quiet pause and the joy of fading into the background in order to listen to the undertones of life. To waiting for a toddler to find his voice and then to revel in his adorable innocence and charm. To recognizing the limited need for my biases to be added to the cacophony of competing opinions. To admitting my moments of brain death and being willing to let them pass. Most of all, waking up to the present moment and the gift it has to offer if I am patient enough to let it emerge.


By Barbara Anne Radtke

Kathy, thanks for making this masterful connection to being “brain dead” in the sense of the dulling of our spirit to the vitality and diversity we can find in daily living. The story of Clay’s pause to remember is a lesson for all of us. I also relate it to your previous entry about taking a breath.

Taking a pause, suspending judgment, breathing deep are all intimately connected to gaining the most insight from each other, whether we are sharing memories or listening to each other about our experiences of time, place, point of view, and living on this planet. In our world with its deep division and turmoil, “taking a moment to pause, remember, and listen” is not an act of hesitation but an act of wisdom.

Photo by Ron Hendricks - Used with permission

댓글 2개


How does a three-year-old acknowledge 'brain dead'?! He is beyond many adults (including me) who would take a moment to recognize that.

Thank you for including Mr. Boyle's verse. Holidays are sometimes trying times for those who have lost. Sharing the idea of 'only the body is dead' may help cheer someone's saddened heart.

Thank you.


2023년 11월 13일
답글 상대:

Debbie, I know what you mean. Clay's insights blow me away. Perhaps three-year-olds have an insight that we tend to lose as we age. Then again, he is my grandson...! :)

I agree that the holidays can be particularly painful for those who have experienced loss. Greg Boyle's book (he is a Jesuit) is such a study in tenderness and compassion.


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