Various mind meanderings here. Possibly a bit morbid, but I need to brain-dump it out the way.
First of all, my dad was on the phone earlier and told me this news. This won’t mean an awful lot to most of you, but Dr. Palmer was my GP pretty much from when I was born until he retired. There were two other doctors up at the surgery, but I always wanted to see Dr. Palmer. I have this vague recollection of a very kind, very down-to-earth doctor who always put me at my ease and was outstandingly thoughtful. He was ninety years old, which I admit surprised me because as you know, when you’re a kid, adults already seem ancient. He died peacefully and for that, I’m immensely grateful.
Life and death are things that crop up all the time in my job and which has been heavily featured in the news this week. For those of you who don’t know what I do in my ‘day job’, I work in Cancer Services for the local NHS trust. Now, I don’t have any direct contact with patients, but all the same… certain things happen with people during the course of their pathways through the hospital that means you remember them. Maybe they’ve missed an outpatients appointment for a slightly amusing reason… or perhaps you remember them for more tragic reasons. I was talking to one of the nurse specialists about how I could never do their job. How it must be the hardest thing in the world to sit down with a patient and give them the news that nobody wants to hear.
‘The patients are usually alright,’ said the nurses. ‘It’s the families. They’re the ones who struggle to accept it. Almost invariably the patient takes the news calmly.’ This is in part because they’re expecting it. Of course, some of them are shocked, but for the most part, they take the news with great and admirable dignity. Some of them choose no surgical intervention, some of them are too advanced for surgical intervention, so go for palliative treatments instead. Some, like the patient who came to my attention yesterday, write beautiful letters to the nurses saying (paraphrased): ‘thank you so much for your kindness and care. But I have had a happy life and whilst I have no pain, I will just go about my daily life. When the time comes, don’t be sad for me.’ I heard about this and I was welling up.
The other thing that’s made my heart break this week has been the awful, awful tragedy in Belgium that saw the loss of 28 lives, some 22 of them 12 year old children. Perhaps it just hits very close to the mark with Smallish being around that age, but for one of the very few times in my life, the phrase ‘my heart goes out…’ is true. Those parents… I can’t start to comprehend what they must be going through. On the day Smallish was born, at 32 weeks gestation, there was a strong chance he wasn’t going to make it to lunchtime. I was lucky.
It’s true what they say. Hold onto what you have, because you never know when it’s going to be taken from you. This has been acute for me this week with the annual run-up to Mother’s Day. I miss my mother very much and I always will. But I won’t forget her. I’m going to go and find a bunch of freesias somewhere tomorrow (her favourite flowers) and remember her in that way on Sunday.
Perhaps all this sadness is the natural balance to the quiet rage I had last week at my day job. Perhaps it’s karma’s way of reminding me how bloody lucky I am. I have a husband and son who I love dearly, my dad, my brother, a home of my own… my two jobs and some quite extraordinary friends. I have enough money to pay my bills and feed my family; with a little left over for luxuries. I am lucky.
Religion and culture notwithstanding, there is a very strong possibility that this life is all we have; this shot on Earth the only one we get. Why do we spend so much of it wishing for things we can’t have, or things we should have done? I am trying – although it’s hard at times – to adopt the ‘live life to the full’ attitude. This has been quite effective, although last week at work did induce Much Rage. But then you stop, you take a step back. You see 22 sets of grieving parents and you think ‘I have no problems’.
None at all.
Be well and be happy, Interwebs. Here, here is an amusing picture to help you be happy.