Sunday, June 19, 2011

Suspended between life and death

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.


  1. m. FYI -

    I wrote a comment earlier this morning, but Google in its wisdom didn't recognize me and it disappeared.

    Your mother-in-law is lucky to end her long life surrounded by those who care about her. Perhaps on the other side of the great divide, she will come to realize that.

  2. I trust so, e. She passed away, very peacefully, a couple of hours ago with her son and daughter beside her.

  3. Sometimes death is a blessed release..I send you both my love. Now you can celebrate, be thankful for and remember the person she truly was.

  4. My condolences. Beautiful verse!


  5. Maureen, I'm so very sorry. My heart goes out to you, and to all her family. Did you write the last part? It is amazing. Just wonderful. The 'playing on the beach, a beautiful young bride' made me cry.

  6. Thank you all for your kind thoughts.

    Val, you are right. We plan to celebrate her very long life (94 years!). No-one wanted her to wake up in a helpless state so we were all glad when she slipped peacefully away.

    Jodi, I don't know what happened to your comment - I think it got lost somewhere with erp's first attempt.

    Libby, thank you very much. I am reading Flesh and Grass at bedtime and enjoying being taken to a different place and time. I'll be writing about it soon.

    Nan, I will post a picture of her soon and you will se what a beautiful young woman she was. I did write that little piece, it just came to me as I thought about all that was happening in the hospital room. My husband likes it and is planning to use a few lines in his eulogy.

  7. Well, Maureen, it is absolutely beautiful.


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