The sadness – a reminder

Today I was in a hospital all day, walking into peoples rooms to fiddle with furniture. This is a pretty grim job, as you are mostly intruding on people who are quite unwell. Thankfully, it’s not that regular an occurence for me, but I imagine if I was a doctor or nurse I would be able to get used to it, aided by getting to understand how they are being helped while in hospital.

While I was at it something really toook the wind out of me, and it was unexpected.

My mother died a couple of years ago, after suffering with MS for a long time. She was a wonderful woman – she was a radical feminist midwife in Nepal, she made Margerat Thatcher storm off in a huff after not accepting her racism and arguing for the NHS, and she gave everything she could to provide for me and my sister.

Sadly, my strongest memories are of her in her later life. She was frail, skinny and her mind had slowed down, although it never disppeared. She was disabled and drug dependant for years. As a child, adolescent and young man growing up I found it really difficult to deal with that situation and suffered a lot of anger and depression. I found her death difficult, although I don’t think any more so than anyone would find a parent dying.

Today, I saw a woman who looked just like her. Her hair was short and ruffled, her eyes sparkled the same way, and she had high strong cheekbones. Think early David Bowie. She was also horribly thin, and seemed a bit detached from what I was saying, in the same way that mum would be sometimes.

A sadness hit me hard, and took me by surprise. It has been a while since that has been triggered in me. I can normally talk and think about her more remotely now, remember the good things and hold off the bad, and so I don’t get so deeply, immediately upset. It has all seemed a bit less raw. But today I literally had to take a few deep breaths to steady myself. I thought I had largely dealt with her illness and death, but of course I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing you ever really finish. It just takes you off your feet less often, and hopefully with less of a bump.

I walked past the room of the lady I had seen around half an hour later, and she was up and about. I had clearly disturbed her as she was waking up, or under sedation or something. The thing that really confuses me is that I had another strong emotive reaction to learning this, but this one less understandable. I felt happy that she wasn’t who I had thought her to be – she was clearly stronger, more mobile and hopefully healthy than I projected.

But I also felt anger, strangely. The child in me wanted to kick and scream about how unfair it was. I hate that this was my reaction, but I felt a resentment toward her. This is an unfair, unkind and unproductive way to feel about someone you don’t know, and whos only sin is to have a face quite like another face you loved.

I don’t really know why I’m writing this down. I think if there is a reason, it’s to explain that you don’t ever really let go of the big things, someone dying doesn’t have to leave you. Importantly, there is beauty in this, and I’m glad that I can still be affected in this way – it shows affection and humanity. But there is also danger. I have to guard against the angry child.

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