July 21 2016

A conversation with a visitor this week, encouraged me to think about those who are driven to heal others. I’m talking not only about those in the medical profession, but also spiritual healers like my visitor. This, in turn, led me to revisiting an memory when I’d wished I had healing powers.

I’m a ’cause and effect’ thinker, myself. This happens and then because of that something else happens. And yet I have to admit I have found myself wishing that I had healing powers from time to time: when my husband had to have a biopsy after a scan showed something abnormal in his left lung, and when my daughter fell ill and it looked as though she might have had a stroke. They have both since recovered, but for a while there I felt utterly powerless.

My mind did that terrifying thing of launching itself over the present to the bleak future of life without the two people I love most in the world. My spirit felt again those historical fractures that occurred when I was abandoned as a small child and left to the mercies of those who did not, unless it suited them, have my best interests at heart. But I was an adult now; surely I could draw on my own resources? I found I had none.

I prayed in garbled, incoherent way. I sobbed and pleaded. I went, uninvited, to a kind neighbour’s house and sobbed at her kitchen table while she, a retired doctor, patiently listened and spoke words of comfort. Then I apologised – as one tends to do, after showing naked emotion – said goodbye, and walked the few yards back home where my husband was waiting. He was embarrassed and wanted to know what I had said.

It was my husband’s embarrassment that tipped me over into anger. We were both shaken by the force of it. Past and present terror, rage and bitterness tangled and crushed themselves together in a crucible that had been waiting patiently all these years for such an opportunity to find expression. Boiling mad. I finally know what that means.

It was strangely cathartic for both of us. My husband, who doesn’t like confrontation, was relieved, I think, that one of us had found a way to sick up what we were both feeling. We both remembered the wife of a friend of ours who had developed cancer a few years back. She had been in pieces. All the love and attention was directed towards her ailing husband, while she was told: ‘You’re so brave.’ Bravery, I now know, had nothing to do with it. She was hanging on by a thread, caring for his every need, getting little sleep and having to be nice to well-meaning visitors. My husband said to me: ‘People forget that the partner suffers, too.’ The world began to steady after he said that. He’s a kind man.

I went for a walk. I prayed again. This time I had something practical for which to pray. I can do practical.

‘Give me the strength to be there for him. To be there for everything he needs for as long as he needs it. Let me be his rock. Let me do everything with love.’

That became my mantra during the weeks and months that followed. It kept me steady while I washed the blood out of the pillowcases and accompanied my husband to his appointments with various medical professionals, and lunched with family members who didn’t know (my husband didn’t want anyone to be informed) about that abnormality inside his left lung.

I know I shall never be a healer in either the medical or spiritual sense.  And that’s fine. All I can do is pray for the strength to be here, in the present, and do whatever is needed – in my limited way – for those that I love.