Nine Bouquets

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Being part of the support team for someone in hospice is a hard business, but nothing that comes anywhere near what it must be like to be the one who’s dying.  I watched Eric do it, and now I’m watching my sister be taken further and further away from any control over her body and mind as metastatic cancer gets the upper hand in every measure of balance in her life.  It looks excruciating, and she’s told me as much.

Last Friday evening I came home after another few days of being with Chris, holding her hand and talking to her, propping her head upright as my brother-in-law fed her slices of fresh tomato (which she clearly enjoyed), cooking, shopping, reorganizing photo albums that were uncovered when clearing the den to make way for a hospital bed, chatting with visitors, walking to the end of the street to a small field planted with a riot of annuals to pick a bouquet for her kitchen.  I was exhausted by Friday, and because this isn’t happening to me, or to my life partner, I could afford to take a break.

So I did.  I weeded my gardens and froze fresh peaches, grilled veggies for dinner and went kayaking, sat on the porch with David and watched rain clouds move across the sky, slept and read and visited a friend.  But the first thing I did on Saturday was pick flowers, eight bouquets for the house and the porch.

During a time of such hardness, surrounding myself with the New England summer bounty of beauty wherever I am makes a difference.  I know Chris found being in the present to enjoy flowers important, as she wrote in one of the essays on her blog:  Not knowing how long I have to live, but being warned to make my end of life decisions, my goal each day is to live in the present.  Appreciate what you can, like the foliage I planted in my deck boxes coming up with beautiful, delicate, lavender blossoms.  I didn’t even know that they flowered.  I like to go out to my front porch each day to look at the plant on my porch with so many pinkish red blossoms they are hard to count.          

Nine bouquets for both of us, though Chris will never see eight of them.       

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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2 Responses to Nine Bouquets

  1. Grace, I was very touched by your post (moved to tears). I picked and arranged flowers for Robin Anasazi (Marsie Silvestro’s partner) when I was with her for the last time, and we both enjoyed and healed immensely through the presence of bouquets from her garden. I would love to provide a service to tend the gardens of people in hospice who have no one else to do so as they prepare to die. I just don’t know how to get started. My prayers are with you, your sister and family at this sad and most loving time. I respect immensely your taking care of your needs as you also tend to your sister and her family. Life is rich on so many levels despite this pain. Sending love. Andrea

    • Grace Mattern says:

      Andrea — Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. Yes, life is so rich and pain is part of the deepness. I love your idea of tending the gardens of people in hospice — you could contact your local hospice group and offer the idea. I too am thinking of doing volunteer hospice work. It’s such an honor to be in the presence of someone who’s dying. I’ve been lucky enough in my life to witness six births and now I’m in the phase where I may more often witness deaths. It’s all part of the cycle. Surrounding myself with bouquets reminds me to pay attention and be grateful. Blessings to you. — Grace

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