Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Forget-Me-Nots


I get lonely for Helen. I re-read some of the thousands of emails we exchanged over twenty years. News. Challenges. Grief. Stories. Support. Love. Solidarity.

She wrote about a mutual school friend who stayed behind to chat with her after a book club meet. Una was seven months pregnant forty years ago when she was summoned from Dublin to Cork by her family as her mother was terminally ill and wanted to die at home in the pre-hospice era. A few days after Una's arrival she woke up in the middle of the night with terrible pains that she thought might be labour. She lay there in terror.

Terror?

The only phone in the house was downstairs in the hall and no one in the house she was reared in ever disturbed her father, a light sleeper, in the middle of the night. Ever. The punishment for one of her brothers who had the temerity to do so resulted in injuries that kept him out of school for over a week.

Una wept as she told Helen how she cried and moaned into her pillow all night, her body writhing in agony. In the morning she waited for her father to leave for work before she got out of bed. The pains had now stopped and she was relieved but she felt nauseous. Once the doctor arrived to administer morphine to her mother, she mentioned the pains of the night before and he evaluated the situation. He immediately summoned an ambulance.

The baby was born dead a few hours later.

Una said to Helen it was the first time she'd ever talked about all of it.

Helen wrote to me: "I'm only telling you because you understand that kind of terror."

Sadly, I do.

30 comments:

  1. I feel for you WWW. Friends like that are almost as rare as male soul mates. I saw an amazing medium the other week. After I left, I totted up over 20 accurate pieces of information she'd given me about my late niece including getting her name right. She didn't know me and I hadn't let slip any of these details, even inadvertantly. It was very comforting. I would recommend if you have one in your area. Lx

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    1. Thanks for that Laura. My grief counselling has helped immeasurably. I am more accepting of her death now and not as devastated and lost. I pluck her stories out and recount them so they're not lost. My comfort if you will.
      XO
      WWW

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  2. How incredibly sad and unnecessary...I am missing two friends like your Helen and have not yet been able to look back. Best to you.

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    1. Looking back is part of my process. Not obsessively but occasionally. She is irreplaceable. I need her words periodically. A balm to my spirit.
      Our losses can be immobilizing. I've no hesitation in saying I nearly died myself.
      Sisters in spirit E.
      XO
      WWW

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  3. What a story! I salute you for being that kind of friend to whom such an incredible story can be told.

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    1. I share the paternal terror Ramana. Helen was one of the few who knew this. She was the type of friend whom everybody shared their innards with.
      XO
      WWW

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  4. That is a terrible story, told in a good way of course. How sad that there are people in this world whose feathers we are so afraid of ruffling in the slightest; and that they are in our own families.

    It must be terrible, also, to do without your friend Helen. A friend like that is irreplaceable, even though you have many other friends. Like the Poet above, I take comfort in accurate messages/details from the other side of death; but it still isn't the same as having your loved one sitting in front of you, or hearing her voice.

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    1. I know, right? I hear her voice a lot. She was so supportive of everything I did or tried to do and remind me of past successes. We'd sort each other out and shared our depressions openly with each other. I may find a medium and see what happens.
      XO
      WWW

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    2. I hope you do. It will put your mind at ease in many ways. You'll still miss Helen, but you won't worry about her.

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    3. I can't say I worry about her. More that I miss the lives shared, all the memories accumulated, the ongoing bolstering of each other. You know what I'm talking about. Absolutely nothing fills that gap.
      XO
      WWW

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    4. I do know, I think, although I've never lost a friend with whom I was as close as you and Helen were. I'm glad you don't worry. I used to worry (not exactly the right word) about Mom, because WHERE WAS SHE? She couldn't just be NOT ANYMORE!

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    5. I don't know whether you believe in an afterlife but I don't. To me it sounds awful. Gold mansions and harps and no books or knitting. So when I confront death of my dearies that's it, game done. I admit I envy those who believe in the kittens and rainbows and frolicking endlessly with their departeds
      XO
      WWW

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  5. How dreadful that the father should have such power that he was responsible for a death.
    It is a great shame that there seem to be plenty of others who've experienced the same fear. Very sorry that one of them was you.
    Maggie x

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    1. Reigns of Terror in many Irish houses back then Maggie. And sadly when my father was lambasting his grandchildren (our children) my brother and I still couldn't stand up to him much to our ongoing shame and regret. We were paralyzed. Thank goodness he only verbally assaulted them (over touching his Christmas cake) but still. ....
      XO
      WWW

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  6. I understand
    and a unhappy childhood
    I just do not talk about
    and many other life stories.
    But writing these words to you
    I sit here and smile
    and the last years have been so good.

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    1. Yes my years in Canada in spite of a lot of turmoil at times have been so much better. I was able to follow my dreams and no more could one ask truly. This would never have happened in Ireland. I can count many blessings.
      XO
      WWW

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  7. Solidarity my friend. Good to be at the other side of it. We understand each other. Only those who've lived it know.
    XO
    WWW

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  8. Sheer, naked terror is a horrible experience. Too many women have been subjected to it. A very poignant story.

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  9. Yes I posted the Guardian article on symphyosotomy on FB todsy Nick. I can't imagine my mother's terror undergoing this.
    XO
    WWW

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  10. Way off at the other end of the spectrum, just so you will know (you already do) there that part.....my two daughters called tonight, told me about their lives, new since Tuesday (lol). I'm fortunate that my life and theirs did not contain strife and terror.
    Sorry, WWW, wish it were otherwise for you, and all the other women who had experiences like this.
    Mike

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    1. Thanks Mike for modelling how a father can be loving and supportive. And real. My father had his demons for sure and I can't overstate the influence of the Irish RC church on all of this misogyny which continues to today. Other places too but I write of what I am familiar with.
      XO
      WWW

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  11. My god what women get put through. I thought I had a hard time. What do I know?

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    1. It's all tied up with personal experience isn't it and the value we place on girls and women and sadly, I don't see much improvement when trafficking is ignored and child marriages and...I could go on. Equality is still but a dream for unprivileged women and girls. Wasn't it the Aga Khan who said that women of the world would only climb out of poverty and oppression if they were educated?
      XO
      WWW

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  12. I felt a tightening in my diaphragm, reading about your grief, thinking of my dear friend with whom I share a relationship like yours with Helen. I don't mind most things about getting older, but those kinds of losses scare me. Despite physical illness, I think of myself as strong, strong enough to recently choose brain surgery and its possible risks over a lifetime of an ever-increasing number of mind-numbing medications. But it's impossible to prepare for that kind of loss you experienced, to test oneself in advance and determine if it can be endured and to shore up one's weak points.

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    1. Linda sorry to hear about your challenges, as you know from before. I never, ever envisioned a life without Helen, her body was her temple unlike addictive me who couldn't do enough harm to myself before a bit of enlightenment. An unpredictable glio blastoma ate her from the inside. Quickly and fiercely.
      I have to admit to being so very lost. I try to become more involved with others but then an appalling PG like my current post can do me in. LOL.
      XO
      WWW

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  13. Catching up.
    I miss you when I’m away from blogging. You’re one of the few I read with pleasure.

    Hard men, hard times. It’s good that we are less afraid these days. Some of us, anyway. Some of us have been afraid in the past, but now we’re strong.

    I am so sorry for you losing your special friend. But you have memories. They won’t fade.

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    1. Thanks Friko - and likewise with you, my dear! Yes, it is wonderful to feel the warmth of the sun and not have that fear always lurking like some festering rain in the soul somewhere. As long as my father was alive it was always there no matter my age. The older I get the more I love women.
      XO
      WWW+

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    2. I like men, some of them anyway, but then nowadays I choose them very carefully.

      I don’t find all women immediately appealing either. But then I am a crosspatch old goat, who is first and foremost, suspicious and cynical where relationships are concerned, never having had much luck with them.

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    3. On the whole I find women more emotionally available. Having said that 2 of my closest friends are men. And now only 3 women after a truckload of dearies who have died. Slender threads. But how lucky am I when so many can't say that at all?
      XO
      WWW

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