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  • A man in a hospital. A man too young to die. This man--my husband. The sickness, a cancer that had been feeding on him for 13 years. Cancer--the tormentor that caused him to fall, to bruise, to suffer unconscionable pain, to be gripped in waking nightmares. But worst of all, the thief of his power.

    Now my dear husband was at the end of his fight. Frail, tired like a flower that would soon fall to earth from it's glory. No lifted head here....just a soul that had gone so deep into flesh that one wondered where it was.

    And they were sent--two angel-nurses of mercy to perform a ritual of careful service. They came to bathe my husband, knowing that his body was fading, knowing that his soul was all there was left, his body a mere distraction from which he would float away. And yet, this body needed honor for all the living it had done, for its valiant fight to stay with those he loved. This bath seemed now a whispered invitation to his soul to relinquish its life-long companion.

    I watched as they worked without words between them. Their movements were slow, soft, measured and oh so holy. As I watched, I heard their love -- an emanating song of comfort. Their ministrations said, "We are here. You are not alone. We have walked this path before with others. Your body is still precious to us. It can be left in our care."

    And I was overcome--awed. The quietness was surreal, but the song of their love was melodious and filled the room. I would have felt like an intruder except that the love was so full that it spilled onto me until I too was bathed.

    The hush, the quiet, silent tears, peace, gratitude.

    The love of a tender stranger is a precious, simple thing. A ritual that can be learned--a controlled quiet love respectfully holding the fragile thing that is life--the kind that cannot be explained since it is embodied and multiplied by the divine.
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