Life is fragile and precious
Updated: Feb 15
We had a patient pass recently; it happened while I had stepped out for a bit and when I walked in the door, I was told he was gone. He was only with us two days, I hadn’t become close to him, I hadn’t really spent much time with him at all, but when I walked in the door of his room to say goodbye, I had this almost profound experience. I looked at him lying in the bed and I thought to myself, “he’s gone” and wondered for a second why this hadn’t happened to me before. I had to question myself… had I become so numb to death that death itself didn’t affect me any more?
I stood next to his bed and I took his hand in mine and held it; it was so cold. I started to talk to him; I told him I hoped we had provided good care, that I was sorry his last few days were such a struggle and I hoped that wherever his journey took him, it was safe, peaceful, and beautiful. And for a few moments I felt sadness. It was sadness for the loss of a life, about his pain and struggle in his last few days and the self-knowing of his own pain and struggle and how hard that must have been for him.
We filled our ceremonial bowl with lavender water and fresh roses and we placed washcloths in it until they were soaked with the calming aroma. We put candles around his room. I watched and listened as “K”, a nurse I have learned so much from, spoke eloquently and kindly about him and extended such sensitivity to his family. I handed his sister and his son the scented washcloths and gave them time to gently wash his hands, his feet and his face. I felt deeply touched by this ritual as I watched, and was almost surprised by how much it affected me. I have participated in many of these beautiful baths, but was taken aback by the way it was affecting me this time.
After we walked him out to the car and said goodbye to his son and his sister, I went back into his room. I opened the doors to the patio and as I stood there, I felt this swoosh of wind go past me, as though someone had walked by. But no one was there. I walked outside on to the patio and I took in the smell of the rose bushes, the sounds of the birds, the warmth of the sun and the power of the sky above me and thought to myself how happy I am to be alive and I felt this deeper appreciation for my life and all the wonderfulness of it all. I took it all in and I took several deep breaths to allow it to consume me completely.
I am not sure why his death affected me so deeply; perhaps it was the gentle reminder I needed to stay focused on the present, to embrace each moment, to feel gratitude for life and to appreciate each human as they go through their process. This doesn’t mean I don’t, but perhaps I have allowed my own distractions to get in the way a bit.
For the remainder of the day I felt as though I were walking a little less in a hurry, breathing a little less quickly, and feeling such peace and joy within. I feel like my eyes and my heart were opened just a tiny bit more. Life is fragile and precious, people are fragile and precious, and kindness and compassion are gifts we give one another but also to ourselves. Especially in this kind of work, but I think also in life, we have to breathe in beautiful and exhale gratitude. Be kind to each other. Be appreciative of life. Don’t take anything for granted.