It felt like the worst day of my life, the day we got “The Bed.” I had been bedfast for quite some time, even before the cancer was diagnosed. But the day we got “The Bed” delivered and put into the living room, it was really brought home to me just where I was at. Beds in living rooms were only for elderly people. And I was not elderly. My mother used to look after old ladies in their own homes. Ladies who were bedfast and dying. We lived in their houses, with them. I well remember arriving home from school one day, and all the curtains were closed, and there was a sombre atmosphere. Usually I would go into the front room where the old lady was, and talk to her and cheer her up. She liked that. But on this occasion my mother caught me at the door and said, urgently,
“Don’t go in there. She has died.” I was eight years old. That memory stays with me to this day.
I had resisted getting “The Bed” for a long time. It was too much of a step into the darkness of illness to agree to that. My mind just could not deal with it. But my poor husband, who was wheelchair bound was having to constantly go up and down the stairs to look after me. It was the only solution. And so, my lovely sitting room was pulled to bits to make room for “The Bed” and my heart was broken. We had not lived long in the house and had only just managed to get the room decent. Now, everything was undone again. I resisted going into the room and greeting “The Bed.” I could not face it for a while. Then, quite suddenly, I did. And as I did so, tears and a screaming broke out. I had CANCER! I was going to DIE. Probably in THIS BED!
It was only an ordinary bed. Ordered from the internet. A “Health Bed” it was called. Specially designed for people with bad backs. We’d had one once before, and knew they were good. But, HEALTH bed. Hmmm! I was DYING!
I finally got into the bed, flopped over on my side, and howled. What was I feeling? Fear, and a smothering blackness. This was IT! How long would I be here, I wondered. What was dying going to be like?
We were alone. Alone with it all. Most people think of those with cancer having kind nurses and loving family and friends surrounding them, lifting them up and encouraging them. It was NOT like that for us. We had no one – not in reality anyway. I come from a toxic family, and though they would visit, their visits were emotionally damaging to me, and yet, because I might die, we felt we had to allow my mother to visit. Looking back, I don’t know whether we did right or wrong, but in her own way my mother was suffering too. Differently to us, but still suffering. Ever one to put the feelings of others before my own, I allowed her to come.
I am reminded as I write, of how my doctor came into our living room at the very beginning of this strange and dark adventure, and looked me in the eye and said emphatically,
“YOU are the important one now.”
I think she knew that until now, I had always put myself aside for others, even to the extent of letting them dominate me in ways that were not good. Although that was not the WHOLE truth. I had fought. Fought for my life and the ability to LIVE my life, not under the control of others, namely my mother. We had only just moved back to my hometown, as my husband had had to give up work as he had post polio syndrome, and became unable to work in the end. It was too expensive to live in Derbyshire where we were living, and where I loved living, and so we returned to my hometown where living was much cheaper. I grieved desperately over this, and to this day feel a dreadful pang when I think of Derbyshire and how good life was there. I was the happiest I had ever been, there.
Although we had moved back to my hometown, where my mother lived, and still does, aged 93 now, and dying of emphysema, she did not really enter our lives again. The cancer however, provided entry for her, which was a disaster. She it was, who one day saw me on “The Bed” raising myself up on all fours drooling at the mouth and wailing like an animal. As I have written in an earlier posting, I had the worst itch that our local hospital had seen in over thirty years, and my skin was covered from head to toe in bleeding spots and open sores, such that in a morning my pillow was covered in blood. I remember one day, the doctor coming to see me, and saying, whilst pointing to the pillow and the blood,
“Is that yours?”
“Well, stupid, whose else COULD it be?” I mouthed silently to myself.
As my mother sat in the window seat of our living room, watching the drama on the bed in front of her, she was filled with disdain. I had always believed in God, from being a very small child, and still did. But she pursed her lips in utter disdain and repulsion at seeing me like this, naked on “The Bed” because I could not bear even a cotton sheet over me, and said in a mocking tone,
“Where’s your God NOW?”
It hurt. Yes, it hurt. I am not going to deny it. It hurt like hell, for it had been my belief in God that had seen me through the terrible years as a teenager when she had been abusing me. In those days, my real family was not my biological family, but my Church family was. It was through them that I experienced what I thought was real love. At the age of 13 it seemed like it. Without my belief in God and my new Church family I would have committed suicide. So NO WAY was my mother’s mocking and taunting now going to dent or break my belief in God. Yes, I had the most AWFUL cancer, but in the end it was God Who was stll there when everyone else fled at the sight of me. In fact, my mother’s taunts made my faith even stronger. In a strange way hurting me like that was like hurting my God Who had loved me, and I had this strange feeling that I wanted to fiercely protect Him from this onslaught. And as I write I want to make it plain that I do not see God as a benevolent old man in the sky. No, I have no idea at all Who or What God is, but I do believe that SOMETHING exists. Even if it is only our True Selves deep within us. Our True Essence.
And so, the drama unfolded on “The Bed.”
I remember one time feeling desperate to have a real mother, and in my need, I held out my arms to my mother, pleading with my eyes for her to come to me and hold and comfort me. But she pursed her lips in repulsion at me, and looked at my brother who was sitting next to her in the window, watching me squirming in agony on”The Bed”, and it was as if she was saying “Ugh,” to my brother. The worst of it was that my brother sided with her. I let my arms flop down again, feeling a knife go into me. That knife can still be re-activated at times, even now, and as she is now dying herself my emotions are tearing at me.
There are many more things to be said about “The Bed,” which my husband just this morning has called my Bed of Torture, but the best one is when I received the Last Rites, which I have written about before in my Blog. It was the most beautiful, joyous experience of my whole life. But I feel I should stop here, and continue later with a posting entitled “The Bed 2” as writing makes me very tired. So, watch this space folks. And thankyou for reading x
(To Be Continued).