Altar of Comfort

A hospital ward can be vacuous and clinical. My aging mother was chronically ill from a mixture of strokes, seizures and symptoms of dementia. We all knew that the situation could change quickly - even overnight.

But she gained alertness once more after seven days of induced sedation and she began to try and talk, to move and look around the room. There was nothing warm and inviting to look at. So for the first time, I began to really understand my own patients attempts to build 'altars of comfort' next to their bedsides. There would be photos, flowers, notes of encouragement and the occasional fluffy toy. These altars brought warmth and comfort into the room.

So my mum's altar began with a crisp white piece of cloth with delicately embroidered lilac flowers to cover the little bedside table. An opened bible on it promised wisdom and love. A little kitsch ornament of a white cross, with roses and two angels brought me unexpected comfort in a time of turmoil - I thought it might help her too. A cinnamon scented candle and a hand picked shell to remind her of her life along the ocean completed the ensemble. Soft hymns also now played occasionally in the background.

I sense she felt comforted and so did visiting friends and family.


  1. Do you need an altar of comfort in your present trials?
  2. What items would you include?

Written by Dr Rani Samuel
Clinical Psychologist