I dread flying. (The fears stem from multiple days on a cross-country flight in a single engine Cessna…but, that’s another story.)
When I heard that one of my best friends, spiritual guides and artist-buddies was moving at warp speed toward death (as we all are), I had to fly. It is with gratitude for a few people and circumstances and timing that I write these words down. Everything lined up so that I could be with Bobbie. Bob and I shared over twenty years of friendship and he inspired such rich and wonderful magic in my life. It was an unwritten pact of sorts that led me to his bedside and into the wonderful circle of his family.
When we landed, I took words of a highly-traveled friend, Hollee, to heart and pretended, to some degree, that I was Dora the Explorer. I had some reservations about flying into Vancouver, not being familiar with the ‘big’ city at all. I had flown into Vancouver with a friend many years ago in order to enjoy a Dave Matthew’s Band concert and the Art Gallery, but hadn’t ever found my way around on my own. So, on the advice of Hollee, I took my time finding my way to the Canada Line, enjoying the beautiful art displayed throughout the airport. Bob would have loved that I did this.
I successfully found my way to the Broadway/City Hall stop and then began my short walk to the hospital.
Peter met me at the elevator on the 16th floor of the Palliative Care Unit, after a convoluted wandering of the hospital, having thought I would find Bob on the eleventh floor. When I stepped around the corner and into Bob’s room, his arms extended and opened up to me. The embrace of two old friends was delicious. He uttered his delight and I parked my bag. I knew that I would make this room my home for the coming days, although Bronwyn had graciously offered me a bed.
I write this post to celebrate the type of care and the environment where Bob spent his last days. The Palliative Care unit was exceptional. It was a comfortable space for both residents and families. And there was art…everywhere! Referred to as the VGH/ UBC Hospital Foundation Art Collection, the collection gave me the opportunity to disappear into various visual experiences throughout my stay.
“We are grateful to our donors for their contributions to this innovative program,” says Dr. Bev Spring, a physician with the Palliative Care Unit at VGH. “Art helps to create an atmosphere aesthetically and attitudinally where emotional and physical healing can happen. This is important for the heart and soul of the hospital – and the hearts and souls of those who find themselves on the giving or receiving end of care here: patients, their families and staff alike.”
I collected a series of photographs…none of them great, because I was so impressed. I wasn’t in Vancouver for site seeing or for a vacation. And yet, the space where my dear friend spent his last days was absolutely beautiful. I’m so grateful for that. This post is written in order to celebrate Bob’s life. He held, in his imagination, such knowledge, practice and understanding of place, aesthetics and image-making. This collection would have awed him.
I sat through the wee hours of morning on August 20th and felt an overwhelming peace. Of course, I was weary, but I was and am so grateful for the people who are in my circle. I am so blessed. Bob was a gentle and kind man. His spirit lives.