and the breakthrough of healing into my life when
I was forced to break off because I became ill?
I have spoken about things before but writing is so much more interior.
There is time to dwell, to feel, and to ponder on how much to reveal,
whereas when we talk we can skim along the surface
conveying the effect we want without necessarily plumbing the depths.
In any event it seems strange that in the middle of this stirring of memories
I should be pitched into hospital and find myself
revisiting very much the same hopes and fears,
light and darkness,
as I had lived through all those years ago.
All this has raised some serious questions about
both the physical healing I experienced
and the spiritual realities which have become so much part of my being.
To say it has been, and still is, a testing time is an understatement,
but just now I want to take up my story where I left off
So I take up the story again from the time I had left the main hospital
for the annexe all those years ago
When I had been admitted to hospital I imagined, like most people,
I would leave once I was well.
I could not have foreseen how it was I would make my exit still flat on my back
and not on my own two feet.
As it was I was simply being kept in the hospital annexe
to free up a bed in the main wards whilst
I was on months of full bed rest and observation.
I was the only patient there on long stay.
My fellow patients came and went in the matter of a few days as stitches were removed,
or whatever final hurdles to home were cleared.
We may have been ships that passed in the night but
as anybody who has spent time in hospital will know
we were still able to get to know one another pretty well.
The close proximity and lack of privacy helps,
but above and beyond this there are surface emotions
and a need to be known
that comes from a sudden unwelcome reminder of our mortality.
Amongst all the comings and goings there was one lady who I will call Joyce,
who was to stay longer than most,
and have a decisive effect on bringing my own time in hospital to a close.
Joyce was a good twenty years older than I was and married
with a daughter a bit younger than I.
She had recently suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage so,
as the likelihood of a re-occurrence was apparently high,
she too was being kept under observation.
We knew this because Joyce was not above finding her notes
and reading them to find out just how things stood.
In those days patients were kept in blissful ignorance about their condition
unless, or until, there was a need for them to know anything.
It was very much as though our condition had nothing to do with us at all.
This being the case notes could contain very candid remarks about patients or their families,
and if what Joyce read aloud from her files was to be believed hers certainly did.
It could be difficult to know just where Joyce was coming from
as her mental state was still rather uncertain.
Sometimes it was fairly obvious that she was "away with the fairies" as the saying goes
but at others the things she revealed about her home life seemed real enough,
and her husband's ill treatment of her was certainly a re-occurring theme.
For what must have been three weeks or so we were alone together in the ward
with Joyce apparently making good progress, it seemed likely she would soon be allowed home.
One evening after visiting time was over as Joyce was standing at the foot of my bed talking to me she collapsed into a violent seizure.
Suddenly the laid back routine of the annexe was switched to full alert.
In short order Joyce was whisked away to the main hospital for emergency treatment,
and even now, fifty six years later,
I can see her tousled head, finally still on the pillow as she was taken out of sight.
The next morning sister, (that is the supervising nurse),
came to tell me that Joyce had died at 3.30 a.m.
but strangely I already knew as that interior voice which had comforted me so often
during my stay in hospital had told me so as I awoke.
Later in the day sister came to my bed again,
but this time she brought Joyce's daughter with her.
Joyce's husband had come to the annexe to collect her things but
they had been taken to the main hospital so I was told
her daughter was to stay with me whilst he went to collect them.
So it was that I, a patient only a little older than this distraught youngster,
was left to comfort her,
and listen yet again to the circumstances of her mother's life with her father.
When my parents came to visit that evening and learnt about Joyce's death
they were naturally upset but Dad was his usual quiet self.
All I remember was his quiet seemingly deepening
as I told them about my time with Joyce's daughter earlier that day.
It was about a week later my father and mother turned up unexpectedly
in the afternoon outside normal visiting hours.
They were ushered into the ward by a somewhat flustered nurse who quickly left us alone.
I was doubly mystified as they were both dressed in their best clothes.
Of course they were! Bless their hearts
they had been on what must have been for them an equivalent to an audience with God.
Somehow in those days of rigid hierarchy, and knowing your place,
they had got an appointment to see my consultant
and had succeeded in getting him to agree to let me go home.
It is difficult to imagine the enormity of what that meant in those far off days when doctors,
let alone consultants, were a race apart.
My quiet dad had let it be known that in his own words,
"things have not been going right"
in the hospital for some time.
All the indiscretions about patients details,
the crossing of boundaries,
and now this final lack of definition between what was acceptable for a patient and what was not,
had all been noted and he had decided this ran counter to my well being
and now, enough was enough.
The consultant agreed that I had been simply getting more and more depressed
by being in the continual hospital atmosphere however
the only condition under which I could go home was
that I should remain on full bed rest.
Gamely my mother agreed to do the nursing and
it had been decided that as soon as a district nurse was arranged to give me my injections,
I could be sent home.
In other words I would be home in about a week.
(To be continued)