I remember sitting by my mother’s bed in hospital as she rested. I watched her breathing rise and fall . Some infection had invaded her body and we were just waiting for “things to take their course”. Every now and then she woke up and was as lucid and collected as ever. It was almost as if she was having an afternoon nap. When she woke she talked in general terms of general things and seemed composed and settled in herself. Her children were more emotional and I remember having to leave her bedside to collect myself. Her dignity and frailty combined to give a devastating sense of a life passing.There was no drama. All her children were aware of the others sadness but we just got on with things as is our way. At some point her heart just stopped and the familiar shape and look of her became strangely inanimate. Almost as though she’d popped out of her body for a moment to get something from the shops and would be back shortly. She never returned but that moment lives on in my mind.
By and large the love a parent has for their children is without question. We shake our heads as they make the mistakes we have already made, and are filled with pride when they achieve something we have never got near experiencing: our love is not in doubt. In other relationships our feelings are almost always ringed with compromise and the need to understand some one so close to us but in some ways so different.
Once in a while we get to know, or see walking along some road, a couple already well into their seventies or beyond, holding hands as they progress towards their destination. Him with his well-loved cap and her in a coat worn for many years.There is a kind of innocence, almost childlike, in the way they move with and protect each other . It is not a common sight but I have seen it. Walking silently, as they move along the street, patient in comparison to the knowing urgent progress of other pedestrians. It seems unlikely that either of them was ever a senior vice-president of a major bank or Improvement Manager for a large corporation but that doesn’t seem to be bothering them. They are beyond the age of hurry and they know all they need to know. Looking at them as I cling to edge of my fast spinning world I can only wonder at their faith in, and acceptance of each other and their world and marvel at a tranquility largely unknown to many who sit in bars boasting of glories and plotting fresh triumphs. Perhaps they have already arrived at the place the rest of us are rushing to find.