I am not sure why I am thinking now of the time, two years ago, when I was sitting with a hospice patient on Easter Sunday. We sat in a tiny room in a high-rise apartment building overlooking Lake Erie. She was tiny and fidgety in an over sized hospital bed, while I sat in a folding chair beside her bookshelf. From time to time we would hold hands and stare into each other’s eyes. She was so comfortably familiar to me, and I did not know why until I studied her shelves full of haphazardly placed books. It was almost identical, book for book, to my own collection of books. Well-worn volumes of poetry, books on meditation, Buddhism, Catholicism, human rights, saints and mystics and the occasional beloved work of fiction filled the dusty spaces. I would read to her and watch her eyes light up before she fell into a light doze, only to awaken again for more. This went on for several hours. I remember feeling ease and delight sitting next to her, listening to her sporadic breathing. This was exactly how I wanted to spend my Easter Sunday. Witnessing the dying process summons a sense of resurrection in me and is a reminder to seek life in every moment. To find it in the shadows and the light, in the tangible and the abstract.
Hanging on the wall above the head of her bed was a poem I had never seen before entitled Desiderata. Suddenly I knew. This was not my hospice patient. She was a messenger.
And I thought on that Easter Sunday in a tiny room by Lake Erie in a folding chair that I was offering my hands to hold. Instead I realized that she was holding mine.
Desiderata – Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
[Image from here]