I have learned that what I ask for never shows up in the way I think it should.
I have learned not to let that minor point keep me from asking.
The Ragged Phoenix
Magnolia Regional Hospice in my hometown of Corinth, Mississippi, asked me to create a piece representing our community to be part of a traveling exhibit honoring the hospice experience. The exhibit will travel for fifteen months throughout Mississippi and Louisiana. The handprints belong to the staff of Magnolia Hospice. The fragments are broken mirror pieces.
Following is the essay I sent along with it, as it begins its journey today:
You Lift Me Up: The Crucible of Compassion
Acrylic/Mixed Media on canvas
I am not at the end of my life, not yet. When that time comes, if I have illness or am wearing out (as compared to an accident), I want the kind of compassionate support that hospice offers, to ease me and sustain those who love me, as I make my transition back to the Light from which I came.
The hands of Magnolia Regional Health Center Hospice employees form a crucible of support where the patient can face transition with support, many hands blending to shape one unit of compassion, a vessel, in which palliative care eases suffering and lifts the patient tenderly toward transition.
The bits of mirror reflect that the experiences of dying, death, and caregiving are unique to each person. As light bounces off the mirrors, constantly shifting as we move around the painting, our experiences shift as we move through the processes of caring for the dying and as we face our own mortality.
The mirror fragments are symbolic of a transition to a state where we are no longer broken, but where we are freed from pain and illness.
It doesn’t matter to me whether you see the winged shapes as angels, birds, or something else. It matters to me that you bring your life’s experience to this image and allow it to be what it is to you. Trust your own vision.
My perspective will not be yours and yours will not be mine. Yet, there is a common longing to see Light at the end and to know that our lives have mattered.
The supportive crucible of Hospice holds the patient, the family, and the staff itself in its embrace, where all lives matter.
My dad’s been dead three years ago today. I recall clearly thinking as I knew he was dying, that I could be there with him for as long as it took, but I could not ask him to try to hang on.
The thought that kept repeating in my heart was “we live our own Life, we die our own Death.” Over and over, those words echoed. I hear them still.
Part of me is still in that hospital room where the most intense experience of Life took place. It’s imprinted in my memory, the way the room was arranged, the silenced tv, the monitors, his profile that I knew so well, the knowing that his Spirit was separating from his body with each exhalation….and everything in his Life and our family’s was soon going to change in ways I couldn’t forsee.
It’s a sacred thing to see a beloved, anyone really, to the last breath, the last heartbeat. There is nothing more intimate. Nothing more holy.
Fellow Travellers, this is my experience: LIFE IS.
There’s no blank to fill in after the “IS.” That’s it. Period. It is.
My Life’s less about being in the moment than it is being the moment.
A fair percentage of my moments are messy, and often enough, they’re glorious. And most often, they are quietly glorious in their messiness. 😉
And that’s not a bad thing. As itchy-scratchy as it may be, to be honest with myself, I’ve never had any kind of emotional growth spurt when Life was all pristene and serene.
I’m a bit amazed (but not totally) to find myself nesting in barbed wire.
He: Where you headed?
She: Just out for a walk…
He: Oh, well, you’ll need some music. Where’s your iPod? It’ll make the time pass faster! And it’ll give you a beat to walk to!
She: No. I am not looking to rush through my Life, so no need to try to rush up time. As if I could….and the beat of my heart is all the beat I want.
He: But the music…?
She: The birds are music enough.
Long long long pause.
He: (putting the iPod down) Would you mind if I came along?