Author: Rose Jackson, Death & Dying, Endings, Family, Illness

High above the freeway,
and the harbour,
I see small tugs nudge giant tankers out into the bay.
All night twin lights flash at the entrance to the docks.
Early morning traffic inches along below,
catching flashes of early sunlight.
Sunrise over the Hottentot’s Holland.
Fullmoonrise.
One night: a helicopter, silently suspended just outside the window,
its underside lights blazing into the ward.

Beside my bed yellow roses light up the ward.
The kindnesses of staff nurse Thandeka and Mr Xholisa warm me.
Here, close to the sky, looking out over the city,
I am suspended, in time, an endless trance.

A week ago,
in the shadowy subterranean world
of ICU.
Ghostly figures – was it day? Night? –
appeared beside my bed to take blood,
to feed me bowls of ‘clear fluids’
and numbing opioids,
to bathe me.
And to fade away again.
Every hour a ghostly robotic rubber band tightened around my upper arm.
Machines humming, bleeping,
somewhere someone snoring through the night.

Now, here, in Surgical One, thoughts come unbidden.
Will I float again on the waves of the ocean?
Swim lengths in the Sea Point Pool?
I will – probably – never swim naked in a mountain pool again.
I am not immortal,
Indestructible,
The last verse of a Wopko Jensma poem [¡] comes to mind:
i hope to live to the age of… sixty (ninety?)
i hope to leave some evidence
that I inhabited this world
that I sensed my situation
that I created something
out of my situation
out of my life
that i lived
as human
alive
i
I hope to have glowed, however briefly,
to have warmed those close to me –
My daughter, my son, grandsons, granddaughter,
My students.

Home again,
independent,
there are endless SMSes from GEMS [¡¡] “A claim from Dr Patrick Morton for 431 rands and 99 cents received”
“ A claim from Dr Leon Varkel…”,
hospital authorisation numbers.
I owe the stoma clinic R3 000.
They supply the urostomy pouch,
the bag for nights.

My ten-year-old grandson,
keen marine biologist,
says my stoma “is like a sea anemone,
a closed- up one”.

Now memories of feelings felt two months ago arrive.
The post-surgery pain memory dissolves into the misty, floating, opioid Oxynorm distance.
Clearer is the memory of the kindnesses of the nurses, doctors, dietician, physio.

My daughter, in that long-ago time before the surgery,
distant, impatient,
now full of concern,
sweetly solicitous, bringing food, perfume, an orange squeezer.
My son calls every day.
There are affectionate, concerned phone calls, from my ex-husband,
messages, calls from friends.
I describe the surgery to them as “Life changing”.
Tessa replies, “Ah, but you have your life!”

I feel gently held by unfamiliar woven threads of care, of love.
My mind is drained,
emptied,
weighing less than a gossamer of dandelion seeds.
For a month I have not looked at FaceBook or emails.
I feel cleansed
of the endless low-grade bladder infection,
most of all washed clean of anxieties, long incubated resentments.
The nightly urostomy bag ritual,
the twice weekly
plastic bladder renewal,
the cleaning of the sea anemone…
A small price to pay.

i am wide awake again,
alive again,
i have swum twice in the Sea Point pool.

[¡] from ‘Spanner in the what?’ – Works by Wopko Jensma
[¡¡} Government Employees Medical Scheme

 

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