Monday, October 09, 2006
I'm just back from a week in North Wales to see my Mum and sister, and to explore my native country.
I began the journey at my Mum's house, staying with my sister. We visited Mum in the special nursing home the next day, the first time I had seen her there since she got transferred there from hospital last week. I thought I'd be ok with it, thought somehow that her being settled somewhere would make it easier to comprehend her situation, but it didn't. I spent the first afternoon with a dazed head that wouldn't quite attach back to my body, as I walked in and out of her bedroom, nauseous and lost.
The second visit the following day was worse somehow, my Mum has a chest infection again, which is never easy to see her in such physical distress. In the end I had to walk outside in the cold Autumn air with my sister, and rail at the whole situation. It all just felt sick, cruel that Mum is being put through all this struggle in the name of living, when it seems to me that her time has come. I have had it said to me that maybe her time hasn't quite come, maybe she is hanging on for something that we cannot comprehend. Maybe. But without two drips feeding and medicating her, she would not be here right now - it is only thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, and a philosophy that says we must have life, no matter the cost, that she hangs on.
It brings a lot up for me, seeing my Mum like this, in terms of issues such as euthanasia and a human being's free will. It seems we cannot even determine our own death anymore, we can't die with dignity or self-determination, instead we must ebb our days out in state funded nursing homes. I know it is a complex subject, but somewhere it just seems wrong, wrong to subject a person to this. I guess it is perhaps only when it happens to someone you love that you realise what an important and painful subject euthanasia is.
I guess death itself is such a complex thing. Determining at what point someone is still deemed alive or capable of life or having any quality of life is a difficult thing to assess. People don't want to be responsible for making that choice of potentially ending lives that could have maybe been lived longer or even saved. But the price is that people are forced to live on, and it seems in this culture, no one realises that that is often worse thing than dying, for the person, for their family.
As I was sitting outside the nursing home with my sister, I became aware just how kind and strong my sister was. She understood all my anger, my fear, my fear, my panic, my loss. But every day that I was unable to come and see Mum because I live so far away in Brighton, she was there, day after day, going to see her, wiping her mouth and brushing her hair, holding her hand and playing her the radio. In the face of all this seemingly impossible and boundless suffering, she told me in her own way, that there were still little acts of love she could give to our Mum, there was still dignity and humanity she could bring to the situation, and that is what she would do, to the end.
After talking with my sister outside on the front bench, I felt renewed courage, and wasn't afraid or angry anymore. No time for that, these moments are too precious. I returned to my mother's room, somewhere more at peace. It is no surprise that we resist the truth, the awful truth of sickness and dying, because it just hurts so much. The pain of having to let go, in a situation over which, ultimately, I have no control, is hard. But when I can stop resisting, stop struggling, somewhere there are moments of peace, things are just as they are, and I am back again, loving, no longer afraid.
Wednesday night, Bob arrives, on a late train, that was late. We all go to meet him at the station. Thursday is the day he and I take the train to Snowdonia to climb the biggest mountain in Wales.