It’s been a very painful day, but like many days in recovery, I believe it has ultimately been good for me. I was invited by C this morning to go visit his dying friend on the South Coast. I think he asked me along because it is always a tough trip for him and he could do with the support. I happily agreed as I was honoured to be asked, and given that I’ve never seen that side of life before, I thought I could learn something.
Our journey down was long and fraught with delays. Part of me couldn’t help wondering if the delays were installed by my higher power, to question me on whether I was really sure that I wanted to go. As we got nearer to the coast I got increasingly nervous, knowing I was really about to see someone in a heartbreaking state. It was certainly going to be a different day out for me.
When we finally got to C’s friend’s nursing home we were ushered into the room, where this old man who could barely speak or acknowledge us lay practically paralyzed in his bed. He had suffered a recent series of strokes and it was originally thought that he wouldn’t make it past last weekend. That he is still alive is a miracle to all concerned. C and I simply sat with him for three hours, seeing to his needs and chatting sporadically while the TV lit up the room in the corner. I’d never sat with a dying person before.
It was painful to watch someone so helpless; even more painful to see photos of that same person up on the wall, in his happier days when he was full of joy and life. In the photos he looked like a ray of sunshine, a pleasure to be around. That’s what really stuck with me today, the photos. The person in the bed was barely a shadow of the man on the wall. According to C, he was a chronic alcoholic whose current condition was brought on by that. If alcohol has done that to C’s friend then I believe I’ve had a lucky escape.
Ever since we left the nursing home this evening I have been on the verge of tears, but I can’t quite get them out. Even now, safe in my own home I can’t cry, because my mother is in the next room and I can’t let her hear me. Over the years I have learnt not to cry for that reason. I wouldn’t be rebuked for crying, it would just be embarrassing.
But that’s a side issue. Anyway. I’ve been reminded of my mortality today and that is very frightening. Well, ‘reminded’ might be the wrong word – I’ve never even had cause to think of it before. During my drinking, all the dangerous situations that I got myself into, not once did I really think that I could die. I knew I could get hurt but when you’re young you can’t help feeling invincible, can you?
C himself is in his 60’s and practically on the way out thanks to years of smoking and crippling insomnia. Though compared to his friend in the nursing home, I suppose he is in the peak of health at the moment. I’m very sad tonight, because no matter what I do in life, no matter what I achieve, there are some things that can’t be changed. None of us will be here forever; not all of us will get to go out in a manner of our choosing.
The positives to be taken from situations like this include, of course, the fact that that man I saw today will have his friends and relatives around him in his final days. People who really care for him. And that’s lovely. I may not have interacted with him much but there’s a chance he knew I was there, and perhaps he just appreciated the company. I don’t know.
I will certainly come away from today feeling very different about things. Some of my worries have inevitably been put into perspective. C told me that what I must do is value every minute I have left on this planet, because every minute is worth its weight in gold.