Talking about the unthinkable

I have just discovered a use I hadn’t suspected for blogs. I went to visit an friend of very long standing yesterday, in a hospice where she is in the final throes of cancer. It was so dreadful that I cannot speak directly about it to anyone.

There is a Greek myth that describes a curse put on Midas by Apollo, who wished ass’s ears on the king. Midas was appalled and hid them determinedly under  a large turban. Only his barber knew his secret and he was under pain of death not to tell anyone. But the knowledge burned and burned inside him. So one day he dug a small hole in the ground and whispered, ‘King Midas has ass’s ears,’ in it and felt better. But then what happened? A bed of reeds seeded themselves there, and rapidly grew and grew. And all along the vast reedbed, the sound swished and whispered: ‘King Midas has ass’s ears…King Midas hasss ass’s ears..sss…’ and the whole world came to know about it.

So maybe a blog is like a reedbed, or a small hole in the ground. I can say into it what I cannot say outwardly.

There is something uniquely dreadful about watching the dying process of a friend. It isn’t that it is new.  I was with my mother when she died, and knew several patients at the Mildmay hospital, who succumbed to AIDS. All sad deaths, but dealable. But to see a friend – someone with whom I had navigated all those college years, and then spent months together travelling – to look so haggard and to be in such pain: it is heartbreaking. And there is nothing to do, nothing to be done at all.

What point is there in it?  This is not ennobling. It is not cathartic. To have to struggle through to death like this.

Debbie Purdy has to be right.

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