Three years ago this week I got up to go to the loo, as usual in total darkness. I took one step too many. An hour later I was in hospital awaiting surgery, hip broken in two places, extensive soft tissue injuries.
I opted to stay awake during the operation, so soon afterwards was fit to move onto the main ward. Still in shock and exhausted, I wanted to be left in peace.
“Oh here’s a nice lady for me to talk to, hello my duck!” came from the next bed.
“Just my luck” I thought. And indeed it was.
Dorothy was 92, and had been in and out of hospital for weeks due to a hip that refused to heal. I need not have worried that I was not up to talking, she talked more than enough for both of us. The nurses loved her. She had visitors waiting for space beside her bed. Among them her daughter, who had been alone for many years following her divorce. Now she was about to remarry, a lovely man who adored her. The wedding was days away, and there was no way that Dorothy would be able to attend.
I could not help but overhear the conversation, the daughter insisting she could not get married without her Mum being present, they would postpone it.
Dorothy’s response was as far removed from how my own spiteful, self-obsessed mother would have behaved in those circumstances as you could get.
“You have been a wonderful daughter to me, and a wonderful mother to your own family. Now it’s your turn for some happiness. Nothing will make me happier than to lie here knowing you are marrying that lovely man. We will celebrate again when I’m back home, but don’t you dare cancel!”
By the second day I had to hold a pillow against my broken ribs, I was laughing so much at her stories.
We stayed in touch for the remaining 18 months of her life. I wish I had known her longer, but am so grateful I ever knew her at all. I used to joke that I needed to request an audience, she had so many visitors. They say if you want to be a nice old person, you need to start practising when you are young. She had not had an easy life, suffered much sadness and illness. Yet not one word of self-pity crossed her lips,and the harshest criticism of others was “The least said about them the better”
Her last words were “I think I could manage a cup of tea”
It was standing room only at the funeral. She was such a good and decent woman, a kindly Christian in the real sense of the word. I look at her photo every day, kiss her dear face.
Have you had inspiration from an ordinary person, met someone who left a deep impression on you, showed you the true meaning of humanity?
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