Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist
poliphilo

Change And Decay In All Around I See

The car goes in for its MOT and service.  Ailz drives it to the garage and I follow behind as a passenger in her Dad's car. We notice straight away that the off-side brake light is snafu. How long has it been like that, I wonder? Ailz's dad isn't well, but better than he was a week ago. I salute his courage- his perseverance- his refusal to say die.  On the way down we talk about his brother- Ailz's Uncle George- who is in a hospice and has just taken a turn for the worse. It was expected he'd die last night- but apparently he didn't. I hardly know George- I've met him at funerals and masonic ladies evenings (don't ask)- and  his going is hardly going to affect me personally. Only it will, won't it, because we're all linked together and no man is an island and every man's death diminisheth me. 

I worked at a hospice in the early 70s. It was the first to open in Britain. We were pioneers. We had a shiny new building with highly impasted paintings of Biblical scenes on every floor and the whole enterprise was driven by Faith.  I was there because I'd been told by the Church's selection panel that I needed to get some work experience under my belt before I started theological college. I found it hard.  Death, death and more death.  In a normal hospital death means failure;  In a hospice it's the normal outcome; so one is always living with failure. Of course one  tries to have faith and not think like that.  The goal becomes a good death. Meaning free from pain. Meaning bright and cheerful and as active as possible until the very end when they put you to sleep with heroin and commend your soul to God.   We had a guy on our ward called Mr Brooker who'd been misdiagnosed.  He went on for month after month after month.   I don't know why we hung onto him; I guess because he was good for us- talismanic;  like we could pretend, while we were dealing with him, that we were ordinary nurses in an ordinary hospital.   Only it wasn't so good for him.  He saw the ward empty and fill, empty and fill.  Back then- what with hospices being such a new idea- a lot of the patients didn't know- or pretended they didn't know- what sort of a place it was. Mr Brooker was like that to begin with- but only to begin with. After six months he knew well enough.  It got to him; he became crotchety and withdrawn and stopped making friends with the other patients. 

I think in the end they had mercy on him and packed him off to an old folk's home.

I met my first wife at St Christopher's. We were work mates. We became talismanic too.  Little rays of sunshine. 

And now Ailz and I are  waiting for the phone to ring. When it goes it could be the garage saying the car's fixed or it could be Ailz's parents telling us George has died.  Or it could be some poor sap in India wanting to sell us insurance or a mobile phone.

You can't let it get you down. You've got to keep smiling. You've got to keep on living your life until it stops.

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