Pain

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My neighbour is in pain. Great pain. Pain to take her breath away and halt conversation. She is taking morphine. For these few days her world has contracted to her house and her boxes of pain relief.

My neighbour and I have been friends for some years, and it does not normally matter that she is older than me, old enough to be my mother. She does not like anyone to dwell on her age. But when I drop in to keep her company for a while after work, I am more conscious than usual of our age difference. This illness makes her very fragile, very vulnerable. I feel afraid for her.

This fear makes me awkward. When the morphine sends her into deep sleep, she doesn’t answer the door bell, or the phone. I hover awkwardly, wondering if I should use the spare key she gave me for emergencies. But is this an emergency? I don’t want to invade her privacy. I bring her chocolates and then worry that she might have no appetite, then books and worry that they might not be to her taste. I would like to do more to help her, but am afraid of offending against her immense dignity.

I try to imagine how I will feel when I am older, and might experience pain and sickness of my own. Will I have family near me? Will I have to rely on blundering offers of help from neighbours? Will I be afraid and lonely, or cheerfully resigned?

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3 comments
  1. Sally said:

    Could you maybe tell her that you got so worried when she wasn’t answering the door? and ask whether you should let her be next time or if she’d mind if you pop in to make sure she’s okay? That way you’d just be doing what she asked you to do?

    • That’s a good idea. If I knew what she wanted I wouldn’t be second guessing. I might be becoming a bit too protective.

      • Sally said:

        It’s just because you’re kind and used to caring for people.
        🙂
        I find it easier to just ask people in these situations because I worry so much that I’m likely to annoy someone

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