Thursday, 4 December 2008
Cherry Tree Nov 28
Around the table in an old nightingale ward people are face-to-face - it's a relief to be gathered in a group rather than moving from bed to bed as we tend to in the modern wards.
It's a remarkable and charming group - the lady sitting next to me has lost her sight in the last two years but has great equanimity ("I try to accept what's given with good grace") - another lady waiting for a cancer operation is nervous and brittle - an older man quiet, tremulous with war memories - a woman drooped in semi-sleep comes alive with the conversation, and another and another...
(1920s: at school as a child eating an apple, surrounded by other children so hungry that they are waiting for the core to eat.)
We talk about the time they are in now, at the end of their days and the time they grew up in amidst war and poverty but with a remembered sense of community - Lois and I jotting down their observations - there's a consensus among the group that many feel lost in this time and useless - where is there a place for all this experience? - I tell them about 'other societies' - what a catch all - where older people are considered to be in the last phase of their lives and it is their function to reflect on what they have lived - this is their contribution to society - this is what I've read though have not witnessed for myself, so can't vouch for the truth.
What's surely true is that it's an indictment of our own place and age that we do not have the ability to receive this wisdom from our elders, even less value it - but still, in this long room they sit full of treasure.