At the End of Life, the Artist is Necessary

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word “clinical” may denote “expressing no emotion or feelings” or “showing no character and warmth.” The sentence that is given to illustrate its meaning is this: “We were going to paint our kitchen white, but we decided that would look too clinical.”

Do you ever wonder why hospitals and doctor’s offices are so drab? Why does there seem to be so little attention paid to aesthetics? What impact does this have on doctors, nurses, patients, and visitors?

One day, Cecily Saunders, the British pioneer of modern-day hospice care, was “magnetically drawn” to an oil painting in a gallery window. She was so taken by it that she parked her car and entered the gallery moments before they were closing on the last day of the exhibition. Cecily Saunders moved eagerly from painting to painting. The blue Crucifixion had been the piece to catch her eye from the window, but the piece she impulsively chose to purchase was of ‘Christ Calming the Waters.’

The following day, she wrote the following to the artist, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko:

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Do you have something you need to do?

This evening I heard a physician, who is also a Roman Catholic deacon, share a story about a dying woman to whom he would bring Communion.

The 50-year-old woman had uterine cancer that had metastasized into her spine and, understanding the gravity of her condition, he found himself surprised that she was still alive each time he went to visit her.

Eventually, he decided to ask her, “Do you have something you need to do?”

This question invited an response and she answered, “Yes, I do. I need to become a Canadian citizen.”

It turns out that this woman was very close to finalizing her citizenship and needed to do so in order for her children to receive their citizenship and avoid deportation back to Hong Kong.

On hearing this, the physician-deacon phoned a citizenship judge friend of his and explained the situation. When the citizenship judge heard the request, he agreed to meet the woman the next day so that she could swear the oath.

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