Hyacinths to Feed the Soul
I don't know John or Karen Huntsman on a personal basis, though I did shake his hand once following a stake conference meeting. Yet over the past few weeks I've developed a deep respect for them and experienced a kindred touching of the minds.
I returned home a couple of days ago following ten days at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital in Salt Lake City where I underwent a complete pancreatectomy. As far as I know (the biopsies aren't all in yet), I don't have cancer, but my pancreas was behaving just the way my brother's did before his fatal run in with pancreatic cancer. My care was first rate and I can't say enough about the remarkable, caring staff at the hospital, but it's a slightly different angle than the medical care I want to discuss.
At a very young age I was introduced to a bit of poetry that made a lasting impact on me. It's by Muslihuddin Sadi, a thirteenth century Persian poet.
If of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone
Sell one and from the dole,
Buy hyacinths to feed the soul.
Somewhere along the way of life I discovered there are a lot of dark, dangerous, difficult challenges that have to be faced, but that even at the darkest, most unhappy times something of beauty can make all the difference.
I spent months beside my brother's and sister's beds as they died of cancer and remember so well their anguish because they couldn't see the mountains or even a tree. My sister's room was so small it only accommodated one chair for a visitor and her window overlooked the rooftop of a lower portion of the hospital. My brother's room was larger and its one narrow window provided a view of the parking lot. I felt almost guilty to be in a cancer hospital that is open and beautiful, more like a luxury class hotel than a hospital dedicated to serving those suffering with today's horrifying monster called cancer. John Huntsman has fought his own wars with cancer and determined that a hospital for cancer patients shouldn't cut them off from the world, but invite the world into their rooms. Consequently every patient room has floor to ceiling windows.
With almost an entire wall of specially treated windows I was able to watch runners on the mountain trails by day or view the city lights spread out below me like a carpet of stars at night.
Karen Huntsman went one step farther. She filled every hall, room, and foyer with some of the most incredible art work anyone could wish to see. A stroll through the hospital is like a trip through an art gallery. Those first stumbling walks following surgery are somehow easier with paintings and statuary to distract and lift spirits. I began to feel like a painting of two geese was there just for me as a reminder of my childhood and of a group of friends who call ourselves the V-Formation. I wish I had noted the artist's name. A Japanese print reminded me that life doesn't always follow our plans, a group of native Americans camping beside a small fire in a mountainous forest echoed my love of Jack London stories, and an old woman with a bead necklace spoke to me of the continuity of life and generations. With my love of horses, how could I not love a full size replica of a Spanish mare and her colt? Karen Huntsman truly understands that in our darkest times, beauty lifts the soul.
I'm tired and weak. Today is the first I've attempted to write, but I wish to let my readers know I am healing. I also wish to share the insight I have gained through this experience. The soul needs to be nourished as much as does the body. In a world that seems to glamorize darkness, ugliness, and evil there is a great need for beauty and kindness. Today there is a great need for hyacinths to feed the soul.