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July 2013, vol 9, no 2

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Stephen W. Leslie

Helen of Troy

When I walked into her room, she got right to the point. "What is it like to die?" I paused. Most patients want the chaplain to paint a glowing picture of a heaven full of comfort, beauty and love. But as I gazed into her eyes I could see that was not what she wanted. I shrugged my shoulders, smiled at her and said, "I don't know. I have not died yet." She laughed. This began an honest, heartfelt discussion about an afterlife and reincarnation. Her face relaxed and softened. She told me about her early days as a trapeze artist for a traveling circus, her marriage at fifty years old to a man ten years younger than herself and his tragic death ten years later. Then she told me about her decision to adopt a troubled, mixed-race teenager, at the age of 68. As I stood to go she took my hand, looked into my eyes and said, "This was the most interesting conversation I have ever had with anyone." Two days later, while at the park, she slumped in her wheelchair and was gone.

Funeral audience
Amish black hats and bonnets
red robed Buddhist monks