There’s an image that has stayed with me for several days now. It occurred after a patient had died and the family left hospice. In the window of time before transport would arrive to take the body to the funeral home, I entered the room to sit vigil. I try to do this whenever possible, motivated by the wish to bid the body “good bye” and the soul “good speed.” In the back of my mind is also the rule from different religions to never leave a body unattended.
I began by tidying the room, picking up magazines and soaked tissue papers, pushing aside chairs to make room for the gurney-to-come, straightening the roll-up blinds, and opening two windows to allow cool air to flow. Only then did I turn towards the body lying in repose. Bowing once and then standing in silence, I noticed a neatly-placed blanket with a body outlined underneath. Thin strands of silvery hair looked freshly combed, mouth slightly ajar, eye lids closed. Glancing southward, I noticed a wilting tulip held between folded hands. The petals had begun to curl outwards, looking faintly pink with pale-purple edges. The hands were similarly coloured: whitish-pink skin turning purplish-blue towards the fingertips. I saw no separation between hand and flower; they looked as if sculptured by the same artist and painted from the same palette.
The wintry sun made this impromptu tableau look like a Meissen figurine. So many opportunities, I thought, to see beauty in ordinary places. In a poem entitled Memories, Mary Oliver writes–
Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning
to be astonished.
source: Oliver, M. (2006). Thirst: poems. Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0807068960.