I recently had two things happen to me that gave me pause. First, I went to visit a dear friend of mine, felled by a stroke, forced to spend the rest of his life in a “long term care facility”. To see an intelligent man knocked so far sideways was saddening; to see his family try to make things better for him was heartbreaking. When I left, I felt like I was kicking a brood of puppies- I’m retired, I could have stayed and helped longer, more, somehow. Not that I don’t have a full life here etc etc.
But, YOU KNOW. Doesn’t help that I’m a nurse and I could do the physio things he needs, or that I saw the light go out in his eyes as soon as they transferred him to the “waiting for placement” floor.
The stroke has brought out his depression, and I know how hard that is to fight. Add significant disability and it can seem impossible. He needs a full-time cheering section, and that’s not possible…
So I grieve. And try to cheer from the sidelines.
This same friend used to tease me about how I would talk to anyone. My kids used to hate how I “got caught in a conversation.” I do that. I chat with people at bus stops, I talk to shopkeepers, I build the fragile network that creates a neighbourhood. Apparently, I’ve been doing the right thing. A study passed over my email trail- might’ve been a TED talk about a study that looked at what it was that kept people living longer.
Yes, friends are important- good health is, too- but the best predictor of long life was this fragile network of contacts with your neighbourhood. I’m trying to convey this to my friend, though I am not sure how happy he is to contemplate long life. It certainly makes the world a nicer place and my life happier to smile with people, thank people, ask how their day is going, say something positive. Maybe, if he could see it, it would make his life more pleasant, anyway. Most people are interesting; many are enchanting; some are terrifying. It’s all grist for the imaginative mill.
It keeps my black dogs at bay, most of the time. Except when I envision a life ahead of drifting about in a wheelchair, begging for help with the littlest thing. Then my dogs join in with his for a good full-moonish HOWL.
Lord save us all.