This is a story about a close friend who died and the wonderful message that he sent his dearest companion, Gael, with the help of some very caring, nameless people who took care of him alive, and then not alive.
By rights Patrick should have become like the smalltime hoods he grew up with, but he also grew up with a couple of friends whose interests in music and art guided him in a different direction and he chose the path of a thinker and of a self-taught artist.
Now, art is a subjective field and some people liked what he did and others not, but his art consumed him and sustained him and fulfilled him. He worked almost all his life at a state home for the developmentally disabled and, while he did not suffer fools gladly, for those poor souls he worked with, some horribly disfigured from birth, some criminally insane and violent, he had the patience of Job and the love of St. Francis.
He did not want for friends, and they were as varied as his life, from Hells Angels to community leaders. He lived all his life in the same valley and hated it and loved it as only a person who has watched their childhood haunts become changed by outsiders with money can hate and love.
For a long time he lived on a ranch in an old, small and messy cabin behind the institution where he worked. Occasionally one of the residents would escape and show up on his front porch to visit him. Nearby was the creek which ran through the vally and which once held three-foot long steelheads.
“Progress” fueled by greed has now dried it up, but the creek ran and still runs through his art and waters the strangely contorted mystical oak filled hilly landscapes that he painted.
There were several of these small cabins on the ranch, and in one of them was a very little girl who had cancer. Because of her pain she did not smile and couldn’t sleep. Patrick, in his wanderings over the ranch found a tiny, orphaned baby rabbit. He took it to the little girl and put it in her hands. She looked at it and smiled, and soon she was able to sleep. Patrick himself got cancer and told Gael about the little girl and the rabbit.
“Wouldn’t it be fun,” he said to Gael, “To climb into a bed full of bunnies?”
So, Gael went out and bought several small stuffed bunnies and salted the bed with them so when Patrick climbed into bed, there they were. Of course, they kept them and named them.
Patrick was admitted to hospice, and while there he was in great pain and barely conscious. Gael began taking the bunnies for him to hold in his hand. There was Bad Betty and Mad Bunny, who were lost, but there was still Brave Bunny, who must have been with Patrick when he died.
Patrick’s wish was to leave his body to science. After he died, his body was taken to a morgue, then to wherever they did the science part on it, then to a crematorium, and then, via the Post Office, to Gael.
After the postman handed the package of Patrick to Gael, it took her some time to gather the courage to open it, but when she did, she found a small package on top of Patrick’s ashes.
It was Brave Bunny.
Here is the beauty and the magic of that story. Somebody, in hospice, made sure that that Brave Bunny stayed with Patrick on his journey back to Gael. Somebody at the morgue made sure it stayed with him and went with him to the medical center, where another somebody made sure it went with his body to the crematorium where another somebody made sure it was kept with Patrick until the postman gave him to Gael.
That’s a lot of somebodies, a chain of them in fact who had the kindness and caring to help deliver a message of love from Patrick to Gael. This is my Christmas wish to you; may your world be filled with somebodies, and may we all be somebodies, too.