A resident died at the Zen Hospice Guest House the other day who carried many divisive labels of race, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin and medical condition. I was aware of all the vitriol, stereotypes, violence and political prejudice that are attached to that person’s body as I tenderly bathed and changed them in their final weeks of life.
I did not get a chance to have any conversations with this person – they spoke another language primarily and they were pretty much unconscious all of the time I was with them. And so I do not know the stories they carried, what experiences they lived through, and yet I knew this person must have faced some very tough times. I found them to be extremely beautiful, even in their emaciated state from illness. Beautiful in their clear and vulnerable humanity and also just in their own unique self and their obvious strength. Aesthetically beautiful too – skin, bone structure, all gorgeous to my eyes.
I often felt a fervent wish that this person had experienced much love and appreciation for their beauty and their humanity. When they seemed somewhat conscious, I would stroke their forehead and call them “beautiful” in their language. In their semi-conscious state they would smile a bit or chuckle sweetly. I hope my love was truly received.
I watched every nurse and volunteer who attended this person give such love and respect to them, people of all kinds of backgrounds. It was deeply heartening to see that love. I am so grateful to experience the very best of humanity in my work.