"There are no roadmaps or guidebooks for dealing with death or grief and its aftermath."
After Life After You (2010).
I’ve been revisiting my first book recently for a number of reasons - grief seems to be trending at the moment - and it is nice to see how what I’ve written in the past still resonates now.
But, yet…..even now…..
If anyone has read my second book, A Year of Medical Thinking, you would be familiar with the very gorgeous Sharon that I met pre-op while we were both waiting to go under the knife for breast cancer. Both on the right side. Same surgeon. Go figure!
It was a shitty, scary time.
We were both starving hungry - me more than she because I had to wait longer.
And we kept laughing our heads off for all the wrong reasons.
And speaking of hungry, Sharon’s poor husband Carl was also starving! He had gone without food in support of her.
Only thing was, Carl desperately need food because of his diabetes.
So, Sharon being Sharon goes off in search of food for Carl, sneaking into the hospital kitchen and stealing some sandwiches which she brought back for him to eat in the pre-op ward. She was told off by an angry nurse as no food was allowed in the ward because the patients were all bloody hungry and it wasn’t fair to eat in front of them.
When she explained that he was a diabetic, the nurse changed her tone a bit.
We pissed ourselves laughing about this too. Loudly and inappropriately but we didn’t care. It was so much fun just messing around like a couple of school girls running amok.
Carl died suddenly last week of a heart attack.
It was traumatic and tragic and horrendous and so, so unfair.
He had been complaining of chest pain but dismissed it as indigestion. There is only so much trauma you can go through before you actually either buckle & sink into the ground or grow an impenetrable skin that is impervious to the more subtle nuances of reality - is this something to worry about, or am I being silly? You are kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t worry.
This is something that happens to many, but men are really good at brushing these warning signs away.
For the love of our men, lets help them to be less “she’ll be right mate” and more “sure, why not check it out anyway?”
Women also die of heart attacks - in fact cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women. Women have different symptoms to men.
And sorry folks, its not just older people.
Worst of all, many of these deaths are preventable. Awareness of risk, education and suitable lifestyle choices go a long way in reducing this risk.
And now my beautiful friend is having to face the utter horror of packing up a life entwined in the life of another and dealing with an unfathomable tornado of grief to come.
She told me when she kissed him goodbye that morning that she never dreamed it would be the last time she would ever see her beloved alive again.
So when you next look into the face of a loved one, pause and cherish the moments you have with them.
Because these moments are transitory and precious beyond belief.
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