Up Front 04/13

At about this time last month I was driving along the coast road. As I slowed down, coming into one of the villages, a lady on the sidewalk seemed to mouth the words ‘too fast’ to me. At the time she appeared like a slow motion movie and the image stayed in my mind for the rest of the journey. Later, entering another village, I thought I heard a voice on the radio whispering ‘there’s no hurry’. As it happened, despite staying within the speed limit, I made it to my sister’s bedside a good half hour before she passed away. Later that evening I couldn’t help attributing those two strange messages to my dying sister. I convinced myself that she had been looking out for me. It’s one of the oddities of life that when we are in a situation of deep emotion, often around the death of a loved one, that we imagine and attribute slightly supernatural events to the moments around saying goodbye. We need comfort, and especially the comfort of a strong connection to those final moments.  For the best part of nine years my sister had endured the highs and lows of cancer and remission, but for the last month one of her own comforts was the daily visit from the Marie Curie nurse. She often talked of what a great job they did. It was only after she was gone that I learned of her wish to have become a palliative care nurse herself. She could have a brought a little bit of sunshine into the lives of so many people, but she didn’t believe she could have coped with the studies needed to qualify. As a young girl in school she had been put to the back of the class because she had trouble reading, and therefore fell behind in academia. She had one of the sharpest brains of anyone I’ve met but in school she suffered from dyslexia, which in those days was little understood. Today it’s a condition where recognition alone can completely change a life, replacing darkness with confidence and hope, and in the long run, maybe helping to bring a little more sunshine into people’s lives when they need it most.