Separation By Fate
A few days ago, Col called me on the phone. Heather had fallen down and needed to be helped up. She had had fall a few months ago and it was lucky she had not broken anything, though she had to go to the hospital. She had come back home after that. It was always a bit dicey, if she hurt herself she would most likely need to stay in the hospital or go where she needed more help and care to just get around. She would have to move into an aged-care home.
Heather and Col had managed to be living together for around 65 years, taking care of each other. They have done to this day even as they themselves got around with walkers and needed help for more strenuous efforts. They both were aware that at any moment, any single incident - just one fall, could mean the end of that. They tried their best to not call for more help than I could provide as a neighbour. You could see it in their eyes, the thought of Heather having to go away from their house. But even in that condition, they were courteous, kind and collected in my presence.
Then it happened again, one evening recently. Heather had fallen down. I went over and helped her on to her bed. She wanted to sleep and not worry any further, I suggested, concerned but naively, that they call for the ambulance or a doctor to check her over immediately. They said they would, if needed, but would wait to see if it is bad and that now she wanted to sleep. I left them.
The next day, she was in pain and Heather had to see a doctor. She was given some medication, was on it for a few days, but it did not help much. The pain was too much. Even going through an X-ray machine is difficult for her in her frail condition and bent frame. She was finally moved to the hospital. She is not coming back. It is the passing of another stage in the life of Heather and Col. Col feels bad for not being able to take care of her sufficiently at home. He is still taking care of himself, the house, the garden and accomplishing so much, slowly hobbling around, but with a spirit of an iron man. It is just that the body is frail. He visits Heather at the hospital occasionally.
As he was slowly walking up the hospital ramp leaning on his walker and straining a bit, he looked at me with a smile and said, “K, this is what old age does to one. I suppose I should be thankful to have made it this far, but it’s terrible, I hope no one has to go through this.”
I know what he means and I too wish it were different, that we all lived fit and strong until we are done, but then would we want or think it is time to go? What is the alternative really to living to a ripe old age and struggling with failing health and strength? Die younger? And would I or anyone want that?
At his age, I would be happy to be able to do the things Col does today, but I have not lived his age. I suppose it varies with each of us. I am however moved and inspired by this couple – they have shown the graceful way to accept one of the hardest things in life – separation from a loved one by fate.
Note: This was written a few years ago.