Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The futile spectator

Diane, Mrs BB’s younger and only sister, bridesmaid at our wedding fifty-one years ago, died of cancer. I wrote a letter which her husband read aloud and I’m told she smiled. That should have pleased me, but didn’t. I’ve written all my adult life. Such a small matter.

More usefully, I drove Mrs BB the 230 miles from Hereford to Ashford so she could sit on a hospital bed, hold Diane’s hand and talk for an hour about tiny familiar things. I sat further down the bed and spoke only briefly. I mentioned the name, Jana, I’d chosen six months ago for my novel. Told her I’d recently checked its roots and discovered it was a corruption of Diana, hence, Diane. As I kissed her goodbye I said clumsily, “Remember Jana.” She said she’d bear it in mind.

Otherwise I observed. On intense occasions it’s often the detail that counts. I learned that hospices are usually full and that the dying must qualify for admission. Learned that someone in pain can administer their own morphine via a syringe which feeds into the drip. Noticed that bedpans are now disposable and are made from a sort of papier maché.

My French teacher, a Quaker, does voluntary work at a hospice. She told me, “The dying is all right, I can assure you.” Meaning that the transition, as viewed by those standing by, lacks horror. And as far as they can tell the person they are losing is not suffering.

This post is intentionally about me, not about Diane; about being near someone who is dying. Trying to strip away confused instincts and imagined obligations, touching here and there on the reality. Some time, not now, I’ll write Diane some verse.

10 comments:

The Crow said...

Please accept my sincere condolences for all involved, BB; especially Mrs. BB.

Martha

herhimnbryn said...

Here I am, a stranger from across the ocean but I hope Mrs BB and you BB, will accept my condolences.

BB, probably not the right time to read it now, but if you and Mrs BB, have not already, I recommend Diana Athill's book, 'Somewhere towards the End'.

Susan.

Relucent Reader said...

Our condolences, BB and Mrs BB.Saying goodbye is a sad and hard duty.

Plutarch said...

Mrs BB especially must be feel a huge gap in her life. Best wishes to you both.

Occasional speeder said...

What a great picture. She always looked so neat.

marja-leena said...

What a lovely looking woman. Our condolences to you and especially Mrs BB., from us both.

Rouchswalwe said...

My thoughts are reaching out to you and Mrs. BB with much love. Recently, I learned that a hospice is preferable to a hospital when a dear family member is that ill. But oh, the loss is still terrible to bear.

Barrett Bonden said...

All: Mrs BB has taken to reading Works Well in recent months and so your kind thoughts have, in effect, gone straight to her. I know they are appreciated.

It occurs to me my post (which I showed to Mrs BB beforehand) deserves a further word of explanation. I chose not to write about Diane for another reason: the bond between Mrs BB and Diane was rather stronger than that of mere sisters. Both spent part of the war as children in Dover, a town that was not only bombed night after night, but was also shelled from the other side of the Channel - an even more terrifying experience since there was no warning of the shells' arrival. The war left the younger Diane stressed in several ways and, as far as I can judge, the closeness of an only sister played a significant part in her rehabilitation. So, Diane's story isn't mine to tell.

HHB: Not so much a stranger, I hope. I do know about Alchemist's profession, the links with Avus and the two-wheeled world, Blue Dog and the way you had to ration yourself when reading The Hare with Amber Eyes. I was aware of the good reviews Diane Athill has recently attracted and it is probably only the fact that my reading has had to give way to my writing recently that has prevented me from looking into her. I'll order it now once I'm finished here.

RW (zs): Although I didn't mention it in my post we did visit Diane in the hospice as well as the hospital. Both of us felt it fulfilled its aims.

Avus said...

My condolences to you both. The Ashford hospice I know - it is about 5 minutes away from me. The best way to manage pain and the process of dying, I think. It also gives the opportunity for closures and goodbyes.
My eldest son died suddenly, unexpectedly and alone last year. It leaves a sentence with no full stop to it.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: You're right, no full stops. Just nothingness. A few months ago we attended the funeral of an acquaintance who had died in her early sixties. On the front row of pews I noticed a huddled, grieving figure and realised to my horror it was our acquaintance's mother. Ah, to live so long that your daughter dies before you; one of the very peculiar benefits of the twenty-first century.