“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Yesterday, I longed with outstretched arms for my final triumph……triumph over death, a victory sure and certain in Him!
Friday marked the end of a horrid week and just like a child watching the shadows disappear with the dawning of a new day, ironically but whimsically I stayed awake to watch it exit and reach with gladness the joys of a brand new day. And no, I mean it literally because for all of us, death is a subject best left at bay until with cold icy fingers, it snatches away someone very close and dear to you and that is when it hits you; the inevitability of death. And what better conquest than not just to acknowledge there is victory even in death but to also acknowledge that the triumph is real and can be yours when you believe.
Mind you, my longing was not due to the near death encounter I had trying belatedly to get off the Jubilee line, the doors swooshing close with pneumatic force, trapping my companions – my staff (Simple) and my mini holdall. Thankfully, I was not as fast as I used to be because I would have been caught by the doors performing their monotonous yet essential task. Yet again, even then, I marvel at the good in humanity for those who without a thought give it manifest when suddenly a need is thrust upon them. Two commuters, one inside and another outside the train, sprang to life and wrestled the doors open, freeing me with a cheeky grin on their faces even as I bestowed my gratitude on them. For them, it was just another call to duty – these are the everyday heroes who go unannounced whilst knighthoods are being bestowed on people just for the fun of it, for doing what they have always done, nothing extraordinary reminding me again that present day societal life is a whirlpool, sucking the good and expelling flotsam and debris that is frantically clutched to and termed good by the crowd.
It was the realisation as I lay upon the examination table, feeling the gentle hands of Richmond trying to restore blood circulation to my spine and my constantly overworking muscles responding to the chaotic signals being emitted by my brain. The torque like sensation in my lumbar, the pain like the lapping waves of the sea – intense most times and tender but still there, blepharospasm and facial twitches, poor proprioception……just that realisation that even they just like everyone else can never understand how you feel and when I am inundated by the incessant and more often insincere ‘how are you doing?’, it is also a stark reminder that I am all alone in this and when I look down at the only helping hands I have got and realise even as they hurt that I might just have exhausted all my innate strength to go on, I have a choice – to see beyond the blepharospasm and look upwards, embracing in all humility the inexhaustible reserves of strength available. I have made peace with my best friend after I laid into him after a very aggravating call from one who should know better after nigh on 2 decades.
The question ‘is it curable? can it be managed?’ gingerly put across to me by the lift operator as I made my way to the ticket floor was one filled with concern and with the clouds already threatening to overwhelm me, I smiled and nodded, still feeling very isolated and alone – not by choice but by the circumstances in which I am in because in all sincerity, nothing brings that realisation quicker than when you are being probed by different medical experts and hear varying comments from these medical experts. They do not understand! Nobody human really can except you have walked those shoes or are walking in them….
“Row upon row of cheering spectators
Crowd the vast arena full
But there is only one man who really knows
And he is the one who faces the bull”
Now if you have ever watched a toreador do his thing with so much panache, you always fail to realise that each time the bull charges at him, that is just a man against over 2000 lbs of rage and muscle. He is a man just like you, and whilst he may be skilled in his act, he is still a man. For many who have been isolated by pain and have given into the solitude of pain, this is for you because I know what it feels. And just as the friendly rail official remarked that I looked very comfortable stretched out on the wooden seat at West Ham (after of course asking if I was alright), I recalled the lyrics of Bon Jovi
“I wanna lay you down in a bed of roses / For tonight I’ll sleep on a bed of nails / I wanna be just as close as your Holy Ghost is / And lay you down on a bed of roses”
acknowledging with clarity and certainty, the unfailing closeness of Him despite all that is going on presently and knowledge that the shadows are being chased back as each new day dawns with its own cache of memorable moments and a new set of unique individuals like mentally impaired Teddy who would give anything just to lay in a bed of roses and that is what keeps me going. The words of encouragement from my best friend and father accompanied with those of Kalthume and the very few who have and are still standing with me, each day bringing in someone new even if it is just briefly. We are all made to achieve some good in someone else and whether we choose to fulfil that role, the choice is ours. Mine has been made and yet again, I pull back the curtains of despair and reach down with aching and cramped hands to my shoelaces………..and pull myself up again. This is not over until I say it is, I too love the opera and can attain those notes the fat lady can because I am as unique as she is.
“A man dies …. only a few circles in the water prove that he was ever there. And even they quickly disappear. And when they’re gone, he’s forgotten, without a trace, as if he’d never even existed. And that’s all” – Wolfgang Borchert
Today, again I reiterate my choice – I am not just gonna be a mere ripple in this vast waters of life, alone or accompanied. I choose to be an inspiration to as many. I choose to give a shoulder and a listening ear to as many as desire it. I choose to wear out not rust, and finally amidst a blaze of glory, watch as my flames burn down with many a hearts warmed by the special privilege I had of meeting with them. I recall Sanaa, who just turned 12 on Wednesday as she was wheeled aboard the EL2 in her wheelchair under the watchful eyes of her carer, Vanessa. With a huge smile plastered on her face as she tried to make words and cope with her mental challenges, I reminded myself that I have enjoyed the privileges she may never know, for nigh on four decades and so the least I can do is make her smile just a mite wider. With a shy farewell we parted ways and that brief encounter for me gives me the zest to continue, regardless of a body that is responding to chaotic neural signals and the incessant pain. I know that I can and I choose to.