Friday, June 4, 2010

Life, death and religious icons.

Today, as I was stopped at a red light, I looked over to my right and there was a really old lady in a car with about 10 religious statues attached to her front dashboard. And a crucifix dangling from her rear view mirror, along with her handicap decal. I looked at her, she looked at me. I saw a picture of the Pope, too.

She could barely see over the steering wheel. But there she was; older, independent, well groomed, well dressed.

Do the icons protect her?

Does her belief in the icons protect her?

I often wonder.

I see a lot of religious icons in many of the houses I enter as a hospice nurse. I used to see them a lot at my own Grandparent's home when I was young.

Yesterday, I was in the home of an 88 year old Armenian woman whose walls were plastered in them. Just plastered.

But she did not speak of them. She said they "didn't work." She thought about taking them down, but decided it would be too much work to do so.

It seems that all the icons appear when the bad diagnosis comes(except for a few who had them always, like my grandparents.) Everyone talked about religion then, when the diagnosis came. Some found religion for the first time, or resurrected it from the past.

Or they found some other type of spirituality.

They prayed. They read the bible. They lit candles. They spoke of others who did in fact get better against all odds. They searched for meaning in their illness.

They had prayer chains. They went to mass more often. They were hopeful there would be a miracle. I met some who went to Lourdes.

But once all that failed, or appeared to fail, and they came onto hospice, a lot of that stopped. I rarely hear a word about religion. I rarely have a Chaplin referral.

It is like some deep part of the person has resigned themselves to death, and now have turned inward. I know some are angry at God or whomever they believe in. It becomes a touchy subject between family members. It becomes a tense issue as opposed to a comforting one.

No more talk of miracles.

Just silence on the subject.

I am not interested in getting into a discussion about religion. We as hospice nurses let people believe in what they want. We do not judge, we do not comment. That belongs to the patient and the family.

I like the religious icons. I find them soothing. I have a few of my grandparent's prayer cards and such in the house, even though I am not Catholic. I like to think that they keep me close to my grandparents and parents in some way. Some kind of spiritual link, as odd as that may sound.

But I do not talk of them.

They are just present.

And perhaps that is what they are meant to be. Who knows, really.

Anyway, there is no real point to this story, just an observation.

And that older lady with the statues? She gunned it when the light turned green and cut me off. Happily and safely she sped off while I slammed on the brake and had heart-pounding palpitations set in.

She seemed invincible behind her icons.

I gotta get me some of those statues.

Especially for protection from Boston drivers.

Of any age.


  1. Yesterday I parked between a car that had a mini-Buddha on the dashboard (that car was parked across from me) and a car that had a Chinese feng shui medallion hanging from the rearview mirror. My car has an Orthodox braided cross hanging from the rearview mirror and an icon by my steering wheel. All we needed to complete the milieu was a car with a crucifix on it...LOL...

    Do I really think the cross hanging from my rearview mirror is some kind of magic safety talisman? Absolutely not! But it does increase my comfort level in my car. It's, "Ah, this is my place." :)

  2. Yes, you gotta get you some of those statues!