Tuesday, January 7, 2014

So Much Damned Beauty

I was talking with a friend today while at work, and found myself in tears while sitting in the relatively public area outside my company's mail room.  I was overtaken by a wave of memory, shaken by a combination of anger and grief and, oddly, gratitude.  My friend's mom is in a coma in a local hospital, having suffered a stroke.  She is terminally ill, and my friend is trying to prepare for what will come.  

My advice was heartfelt and simple.  I said to be gentle with herself and to assume that her mom could still feel her touch, hear her voice if not her words.  I suggested foot massages, head massages, pedicures--whatever was possible in the confines of the hospital bed.  This is something I can help with, the moment when you must prepare for the imminent loss of someone you love.  The logistics are less onerous than you anticipate, and the long periods of not-knowing, of waiting for the next development, are painful and precious in waves of swelling, alternating emotions that are a surprise--or that were a surprise to me.  

And my friend thanked me, and she said she knew I would be helpful.  I've had a lot of early loss, and I share what I've learned freely.  And then she said something to me that made me cry.  She said that I was a beautiful person, and it broke something loose in me to have her compliment me in the midst of her own pain and loss and confusion.  Not because of the compliment, which itself was a lovely thing to hear.  No, it was the experience of witnessing such generosity of spirit.  The fact that we as humans can find the capacity to be gentle and kind with others when we are being crushed by circumstance is something that I am continually amazed by, continually gratified to discover.  There is so much damned beauty in this world, in the midst of pain and loss as well as in the midst of joy and plenty.  

And her words reminded me of so many things, including the generosity of three hospice caregivers who I had the pleasure to know.  I remember my gratitude for each of these women, and I think that part of what they must have been moved by in our time together was the same thing that I was moved by in my friend.  In the midst of my pain, I remember telling each of these women why they were so important, so amazing.  And I'm so grateful that my heart was open enough to see that, because seeing it made those days and hours easier to bear.  And seeing it was a testament to the kind of person I hope to be, try to be.  

It was a difficult day, and my friend's journey is not over.  But it was a good day, too.  Any day that we lessen the burden of someone else is a day worth living.  

Best to all who pass this way.  


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