I bypassed an unwritten rule this morning and went to visit a hospice patient on my day-off. Most likely she’ll have died by time I return to work.
She looked exhausted, propped up in bed, with tubes and attachments every-which way — not having taken food for weeks and with her illness rapidly destroying what’s left of an emaciated body. Her eyes signalled a slowly fading presence. Mindful of each precious moment, I stayed for only a minute or two while her parents walked the hallway to “give you time alone.” Her left hand rested in mine. I whispered that I’d be away for the next three days, and then: I love you.
What was that? I’ve felt loving towards different people over the last 14 months of working on the spiritual care team: patients, members of their families, and co-workers: each time amazed and grateful. But I’ve never used these three words to express a non-romantic, non-sexual, non-demanding kind of love.
As I remember the moment right now, two hours later, the energy continues to reverberate within my body, mysteriously free of ego-attachment. Instead, pure heart-to-heart love … something Ram Dass once described as soul love. According to Celtic spiritual tradition, when we are very open with another person, two souls flow together. In that instant, it is said, we’ve found our anam cara, our soul friend.