In Mike Nichol’s superb film “Wit,” Emma Thompson’s character, Professor Vivian Bearing, forced to endure yet another hospital test, longs to return to her bed, but not her familiar and comfortable one at home. No, her bed on this day and for the past several weeks, is a hospital one, plain, with electrical controls and side rails, in a colorless, fluorescent-lighted room with standard, institutional off-white ceiling tiles. She is there because she has advanced ovarian cancer and is fighting to stay alive.
Despite its sterile surroundings, Ms. Thompson’s character desperately wants to return to this particular bed, her place of refuge from the relentless prodding and testing she despises. Yet this bed is where she will die eventually.
One’s own bed. Think of it. So important to our lives. Familiar, comfortable, a place of security and rest. From our infancy forward throughout our lives, we cherish our own beds. This is where we go for comfort, to retreat from the fight, to cry, to read, to get away from it all, to sleep, to dream.
Troops in combat in foreign lands dream about returning to their familiar, warm beds at home. So do those whose business requires them to travel, athletes, government, academic, religious officials. Most hotels do a good job of making us comfortable, but it’s not the same as our bed at home. Not quite. People who are homeless take their rest where they can find it, maybe a discarded piece of cardboard under an overpass, but it’s theirs, and they will fight to keep it.
We take to our bed when we are sick. This same bed is where we share acts of love. Yes, bed is where sex takes place, where we euphemistically say we are sleeping with someone. We are in bed when we die, most of us. Bed, from conception to death, is a cherished life companion.
Many writers have remarked on our bed’s importance to us. Anne Lamott writes that her idea of absolute happiness is “to be in bed on a rainy day, with my blankie, my cat and my dog.” Novelist Guy De Maupassant summarizes it well with this. “The bed comprehends our whole life, for we were born in it, we live in it, and we shall die in it.”