The Death Of Dogma
In the hospice wing, the cleaner was in the room when the resident's breathing stopped. Moving towards the bed, he wiped his hands on his uniform pants and took her hand - the one with the ring.
For a long moment, he felt something - not a sound, a touch, or a smell, not a desire, a thought, or belief, just a vagueness, but unmistakably real. It swallowed everything - the pain of cancer and the pleasure of a full stomach, the loneliness of an overnight Greyhound bus ride and the belonging of a big family Christmas, the fear of staying behind and the hope of going, the dream of wealth or at least respect. A peacefulness —
"Hey boy, whatcha think you're doin?" shouted a scarlet-cheeked nurse. Startled, he dropped the mop handle, which bounced off the bed frame and clattered to the floor, but he gently lay the hand to rest next to the deceased.
"Umh. N-N-N-Nothing. Just th-th-thought I...uh...heard some…uh…thing," stuttered the cleaner.
After checking the pulse and the breathing then the ring finger, the nurse relaxed. Recognizing the expression on his face, she said more calmly, "First one, huh? Just mind yourself, 'lotsa folks get nervous when there's valuables."