My mother-in-law has suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and is unconscious. We are told that she will not recover and members of the family are taking turns to watch beside her in her hospital room. As the days and nights pass, nothing changes visibly, she looks as if she is in a deep sleep and it is hard to believe that she will not open her eyes. But there have been significant changes in the atmosphere in the room and in the behaviour and attitude of those who come and go. The limbo state has been a blessing in disguise.
Limbo: a place or state of oblivion
an intermediate, transitional or midway place or state
a region on the border of heaven and hell
Purgatory: a place of expiation
Hearing: develops at around 8 weeks of gestation and is the last sense to go in unconscious patients
I'm sorry, there is nothing we can do but keep her comfortable 'til she slips away.
Her consciousness has gone, she cannot feel your touch
but that first sense developed in the womb goes on, deep in the sleeping brain
and she will hear your voice.
So speak to her of happy, long-past times,
recount her triumphs and adventures, her travels and her loves.
Forget the recent years of endless repetitions and mistakes,
make her a child again, winning her races, playing on the beach,
a beautiful young bride, accomplished hostess, gifted raconteur.
Roll back the years and let her dream of sunshine, vigour and romance.
This vigil is a healing time for all.
Her faithful carer, now a son again, returns to happier times and memories,
while those with lives too full to spend an hour in aged company
now sit beside her through the night, remorse transformed into a fantasy of duty done.
And those who found her difficult in life have time to reconcile their hurts.
This limbo has become a purgatory for all. And all will rest in peace when she is gone.