It occurs to me that additional help and encouragement may well be forthcoming, simply from the knowledge and awareness that those who genuinely try to provide support and comfort in difficult moments, however faultily and inadequately, do themselves often receive assistance, sometimes from the most unexpected of sources and quarters.
Several years ago now, I was called to the home of a young wife and mother of two delightful little girls. Mary had an advanced and inoperable malignant tumour, from which she was now dying. It was, I remember a glorious summer’s afternoon in early July and as I write, there somehow also comes to mind the names of Bjorn Borg and the late Vitas Garulaitis of “one-Wimbledon” fame. I arrived at the house to be met at the garden gate by Nancy, aged nine and the eldest of the two girls, who had been “looking out” for me. “Mummy’s no’ weil an’ she’s in her beid” (Mummy’s not well and she’s in her bed) she told me, taking my hand as we entered the house.
I believe that somewhere in these blogs I have referred to the death of Edna my eldest sister when I was four and a half years of age. The day that Edna was taken into hospital from our home, my older brother and I were sent out for “a walk”. However, we spotted the ambulance and ran home just in time to see Edna being carried into it. I was allowed on-board for just a few moments in order to say “goodbye” and my sister, gravely ill though she was and only days before her death from meningitis, ‘cradled’ my head in her arms. I will never ever forget it.
Now this took place in early January just before Edna’s 16th birthday (and on which day she died) and my mother, who of course travelled with my sister to the hospital, was most concerned lest she might feel the cold, there being no heaters in vehicles in those now far off days. Accordingly, she produced an extra blanket from out of a blanket box, which gave off a (not unpleasant) “woolly” aroma but one which I had entirely forgotten (and as you may already know, smells can be powerful stimuli to memory, even many years later on in time). Well, as I walked up the stairs that day with Nancy to her parent’s bedroom, I suddenly and quite unexpectedly seemed to ‘flash back’ to that early January day of long ago and the smell of the blanket was everywhere around me. Upon my entry into her bedroom, Mary very weakly greeted me but in my head, it was not just Mary’s voice that I heard. No, I didn’t for some inexplicable reason find it distracting or disconcerting. Indeed – and to the contrary – I felt more focused and at ease than I had hitherto imagined possible, as softly and easily, we spoke together.
The next day Mary died (in fact through that night) but not without so thoughtfully finding a moment to request of Eddie (her husband) that he be sure to thank me for my visit which, so she told him, had been of much comfort “and very meaningful”, adding, “He will understand.” Indeed, I did and the feeling of deep gratitude and enrichment was truly and entirely mutual.(C)SB.