Lifetimes piling up

Hospital portrait.jpg

The familiar corridors. Visiting mum in hospital, once again.

This time after what appears to have been a minor heart attack, last week. She was very under the weather and uncomfortable as we visited last Thursday afternoon, and I realise - with dull shame and throat-lump remorse - that she may have been having a heart attack right before our eyes, as we made jolly small talk over toasted sandwiches.

Now I wander up from reception, clutching a Get Well Soon card and seeing all of the anxious relatives and put-upon staff going from place to place, each locked in their own bubble of experience.

I pass one of the windows, giving out onto institutionalised shrubbery planting and plain faced buildings (the whole HOSPITAL under threat of closure) and shivering trees blown by a steely, icy easterly wind. There’s a stocky, white haired little woman wearing a purple padded coat, facing into the windowsill and sobbing into a mobile phone. Her shoulders heave up and down and breath leaves her as she weeps, unable to even speak to the person she has called.

My steps falter and every part of me wants to walk over and lay a hand on her shoulder, but she is so hunched forward into the windowframe, so… completely given over to the act of weeping, that it feels like an intrusion. And so I walk past this… grief, this loss, this enormous heavy-hearted sadness, and go about my business - as everyone else goes about theirs.

What is it about us that stops us from moving forward, from throwing our arms around each other in time of need? This little stocky woman with wiry white hair, in her neat purple windcheater. So obviously in need of comfort, and so alone in whatever is assailing her.

Downstairs as I leave the hospital, there is a painting on the wall - of houses piled up on houses, a depiction of a vertical jumble of eight dwellings, four pairs of houses teetering upwards under their burden, each with its own windows and doors looking out from under the weight of the house above.