I try to walk every morning, and I change my route each day to break things up, but the one thing that never seems to change is the variety of flowers that I get to see. And while the new fresh bloom is always beautiful, I find myself drawn to the fading flowers, the ones losing petals, with browning on their edges, and parts missing, knowing their end is near. I have always felt that the flowers at the end of their bloom are almost prettier.
Because I work in end-of-life care, I can't help but equate the different phases of the ending of the flower’s life, to that of the patients I have the honor of caring for from diagnosis to death. I witness the decline of the human body whether it be from age or disease, and the different ways it begins to shut down. Sometimes it is very slow, one phase at a time, but oftentimes it can happen quickly, so much so that you can be surprised by the sudden changes, the decline, and the end... despite knowing it was coming.
As someone ages, we see changes in their physical appearance, things that some might consider unattractive, like wrinkles, skin changes, hair changes, body changes... but that is a natural part of aging. What if we could see it for what it is, a life that was lived, coming to its end... shouldn't that be perceived as beautiful?
And when someone is dying, and the disease process takes hold, it too can take the body on a journey that can be seen as unattractive. Sometimes there is an increase in weight, perhaps swelling of the abdomen or limbs, changes in skin color or temperature, or loss of weight that can even appear frightening, and sores that might have a strong odor, or be difficult to look at.
Now imagine how the person feels who is experiencing this, they know how their appearance has changed, which must be uncomfortable for them, while also increasing their insecurity. They are already going through so much, what can we do to make them feel less insecure?
Don't stop seeing their beauty.
What if we treated each person who was fading due to age, illness, or disease, like the flower who even while losing its petals, has browned edges, loses its fragrance, and is dying is still beautiful. The human body is miraculous and even when it is uncomfortable, and yes, sometimes even unattractive, is still strong, resilient, and amazing… I want us to see their beauty, to applaud their strength, and to let them know that what we see is their heart, their compassion, their legacy, their life and to know that they will never stop being beautiful to us.