Weekly reflections for those who tend to the dying
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
A thirtieth of a second
*Google image search
Mary looked at a picture of herself at a party, a candid shot with her at the center. It was taken a month after her husband, her love, her partner, her friend, had died. The image was of a graduation party for a nephew of hers. In the picture, people were smiling, dancing, drinking, eating, living. Mary was smiling too, but a year later as she examined the photo, a thirtieth of second - a sliver of time, Mary saw in that moment a difference between herself and the other partygoers; something that separated them. From her husband’s diagnosis until sometime after his death, Mary had lived in a fog. Her mind, dulled by fear and then grief, a thick haze stood as a veil between her and the world. In the image, she was among her friends and family, but separate from them; in this world but touching nothing. Even as she could see this about herself in the picture, she noticed a difference in the eyes of those around her. A few sets of eye were planted squarely on Mary; friends and family looking on, their gazes thick with a sympathy that bordered on sorrow. They saw her as a ragged thing, once beautiful now forever scared and broken. Most just looked way, as if to cast your vision on someone who so recently had been acquainted with death would be to invite the shadow into their lives. We can see with different eyes; we who know the unceasing and pervasive presence of death and dying in the world; we for whom the final breath is not exotic but common. We can see those losing and those who have lost with eyes of care, of empathy not sympathy, of love and not fear. We can see them not as suffering but as people who suffer, not as the grieving but as people living with grief. We can cast a gaze that sees the person before the pain, the life before the loss and perhaps in the reflection of our eyes, those who loved and lost can find a glimmer of hope for the future.