Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Long, Dark Insomnia of the Soul

I now know some of the hospital smokers by sight. I know how they get there in their wheelchairs.
I have bought food in unfamiliar supermarkets, and found that people still ask me questions.
'Is this French bread?'
The woman behind the bread counter tries to help, but the man only wants my opinion, although part of my opinion he needs translated into Punjabi by his companion. The woman behind the bread counter tries to assist IN Punjabi, but clearly it's just not the same.

At the hospital, we know the nurses by first name, and they change. Over the week and a bit my friend has gone from respiratory care to cardiac, to advanced cardiac to ICU. She has gone from being able to talk to me through intermittent coughing that I thought would end in her choking to death as she turned purple, to asking for death as her lungs filled up with fluid that her heart couldn't deal with, to being kept alive on a respirator, sedated, because whilst conscious, no-one can deal with the horror of the ventilator that both suffocates and keeps you alive.

On Saturday, while she was still in and out of consciousness, the ICU doctor said he would not admit her to ICU because there was nothing that could be done about her heart, therefore there was no recovery possible. He would only do it if her breathing failed before her family arrived from other parts of Canada.
I guess it did.

My own personal journey with her over the past week has been from being distressed at her distress, but assuming she'd be out again, hell, she even said to me, 'I'll be out next week,' to having to imagine her not being there, not on e-mail, not for us to visit, just in our memories.
Yesterday I read to her until I was sick of the sound of my own voice. I watched the ICU nurses care for her so gently and respectfully, allowing her dignity while she hovers on the edge of the eternal sleep.

And as you do, when you've been close to someone, everything makes you think of them. She is 81, and even while she faltered, her body giving up, still full of life. She'd have said coyly of a nurse, 'oh, he's nice,' though I only partly shared her taste in men. She liked Kevin, but then also Bono.
Every Monday evening, we drove together to Writers' Group, and as soon as we were in that car, we gossiped, shared stories, talked about families, books, travel, everything.

Another friend and I both drew the analogy between dying and giving birth, the midwives that bring babies into this world and the midwives who ease us out.
This is turning into a long labour.

Life is hard. So is death. But now we're into the long, dark insomnia of the soul, until someone makes the decision to turn off the machines, or her heart seizes. God has already spoken, but down here, we're not listening.


Dawn said...
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Dawn said...

This is a beautiful piece. I think your friend's family would cherish a copy.

Schneewittchen said...

Thank-you Dawn.