Tuesday, August 20, 2013

You're allowed

In 2005 a Zambian colleague of mine took me onto a public ward in the main hospital in Kitwe. It was the size of a school assembly hall, and it was full of women dying from AIDS, each lying glassy-eyed and skeletal on a blanket. They were all surrounded by relatives looking down at them, unable to do anything about it. Downstairs, there was a coffin shop. That, said my colleague, as we left, is what poverty looks like. When I close my eyes, I can still see that ward. I think I kept my face straight, but in my head I looked like Munch's Scream.

She was right, that *was* what poverty looks like - nearly all of those women were younger than me, and if they'd been living my life, they wouldn't have got HIV in the first place, and if they had they'd have had access to treatment, support and some of the best healthcare anyone gets anywhere.

But hell, that only takes you so far. My mum's had all those things, and she's still dying. She's now lying in a bed in a hospice looking just like that, while we stand around her smiling brightly with internal Scream faces.

It won't be long now. She read her last book a long time ago. Last week, she did her last crossword and had her last food. A couple of days ago, she watched her last TV programme. She won't get out of bed again.

She's so very, very tired, but she's also still in there, in that tiny body that has taken such punishment over the last year. Yesterday, I was sitting by the bed holding her hand. What *is* that noise, said my dad. I said 'oh, it's me, I was humming'. There was a little noise from the bed, and my mum raised her eyebrow and said 'You're allowed'.

I hadn't even known I was doing it, I think it was just something to fill the void. Later on I did it again and that's when I realised what it was... at a friend's funeral on Saturday (yeah, quite a month for dying) one of the songs they played was a girl's choir singing Fix You. I don't even *like* Coldplay. But like the man says, I am about to lose something I cannot replace.

But this is where we are. This person who has done so much for me, for so many other people, who has helped so many people through what she is now dealing with, is running out of road. There's not much left she can do for us, and there's not much left we can do for her except hold her hand and hum.

So, you know, mum, you can go any time you want. You're allowed.

joella

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3 Comments:

Blogger Emma à Paris said...

All my love to you all. Emma (SILVA)

1:35 am  
Blogger Dogboy Catgirl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:28 am  
Anonymous Tim Holmes said...

xxx - what a mystery life is.

9:31 am  

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