Thursday, July 14, 2011


Grandma Jean’s heart is failing her. Slowly, gradually, but inescapably.

Her heart thumps and skips and sometimes seems to stop altogether. It’s not functioning as it should: her legs are swelling with the fluid it cannot deal with, and she cannot lie down to sleep because she feels herself suffocating.

Simple activities leave her breathless.

At the same time she suffers from severe arthritis, which gives her bad pain in her spine, and her shoulders, and her legs and her hips too.

All this has been getting worse the last few months, and her suffering seems more and more apparent.

Yet this morning when I phoned her and said “You have a good day” she said “I will”. Quite naturally and without the least hesitation. As she usually does.

And when I phoned her last night... the first time she did not reply. She has started to suffer falls in a way she never used to; and so of course I was worried.

But I phoned her back in ten minutes, and she answered the phone, even more out of breath than usual, but full of happiness.

She had managed to get to her front door and then get out as far as the sweet peas. She had picked a bunch for her table, and two roses, one red and one white, because she wanted to paint them in the art class.

"Roses of Sharon", she said. So proudly.

When I phoned her tonight she was in the process of taking a dish to the kitchen sink, so was out of breath, and had to sit down before she could speak to me.

But she was so happy: there had been more people come to the art class, six of them were there this afternoon, and it had gone so well.

Joy is so elusive a thing. If we look for her, or seek to hold onto her, she generally slips from our grasp. So often it’s as if she creeps up on us, catches us off our guard, and so surprises us.

Jean has somehow found a secret of joy: and the worse her life becomes on one level, the better it seems to become on another.

Maybe it’s gratitude. Maybe that's the secret of it.

Maybe the closer she gets to the dark the more she turns to the light. And appreciates the beauty of it.


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