It is now 148 days since Helen died. I am off to England for a day or two to celebrate the 90th birthday of a very active lady. The question I have asked myself time and again is why. 67 is young these days, Helen had always been fit and healthy, never saw the doctor, she used to run five miles every morning before taking the kids to school. She ran those five miles for year after year almost 27 years except when she was in late pregnancy. Her death hit me like a thunderbolt as though it was sudden, unexpected. but after spending 148 days thinking about it, it wasn’t sudden, it wasn’t unexpected. We were all kidding ourselves.
She started dying about five years ago when she stopped walking. Walking was a real problem, she said it was her knees, she said it was her ankles, she said it was arthritis. She dosed herself with vitamin tablets and capsules but she would not see a doctor. She sat in front of her laptop for months on end working out a cure for her complaint. A year before she died she started having breathless fits. “It’s only a bit of congestion” was her diagnosis, until I called the doctor and he sent her straight to Sligo Hospital and in there on April 10th last year she went into cardiac arrest caused as they found out later by a pulmonary oedema. She was lucky it could have killed her. The consultant said she would be lucky to survive the helicopter dash to Galway, it was there only hope. It killed bigger and stronger people than Helen, just look at that fine Munster rugby man, Anthony Foley.
She survived but from that day never really improved. For the last three months she was in a chronic condition. Massive pain controlled partly by extra strength painkillers and opiates, rapid weight loss due to no appetite. One boiled egg for breakfast was her daily diet which removed her strength to carry out the simplest of duties. Her mind deteriorated and with these losses of bodily function, her anger grew and the worst of it was my nursing ability was poor but she would not see a doctor until in the end that personal choice waned and she was not able to resist my entreaties. I shudder to think what anguish we both went through, as well as the hardships the visiting kids suffered. For weeks on end with hardly any sleep and in fact the large doses of THC cannabis oil she was taking towards the end had hardly any effect on her pain. The truth is though that in the post mortem examination, the pathologist passed no remark on her supposed cystic kidney or the sacral metastases in her skeletal examination, for that is what they were treating her for. Did the cannabis oil cure her. We will never know. What she did die of was cardiac hypertrophy. A condition that was never mentioned or discussed with us by the medical experts.
So with the three or four months of trauma leading to her death and the emotional upheaval of her loss, I was drained in mind and body. How I got through that first quarter of 2017 is a miracle, a dull blur. Speaking to so very few unless confronted, the kids were fantastic, visiting as often as 21st century life allowed.
Therapeutic trips were planned, the first to Malta although still raw, swiftly followed by two weeks in Marrakech which gradually and finally teased out the pain. I am now embarking on my third jaunt, a trip to Manchester. A walk across old ground, thoughts of courting days and bringing up a succession of kids in which Helen played a major role and I just tinkered with my duties. But on the eve of my departure, a tragedy, 22 mainly young people killed in a suicide bombers last act. 21,000 people at a concert by a singer, Ariana Grande, I had never heard of. How much apart from the real world am I at?
The same old story appears, a local kid of North African origins, having attended the local school of the district I am now sitting in, leaves all his personal details for the police to find all intact within minutes, whilst his body lies shattered in a million pieces. Even America knew before his name was mentioned some hours after the event. Something smells bad as it does in most of these public executions whether in Europe, Africa or America. Open shows of strength, automatic weapons patrolling the streets, helicopters tramping the skies. To what accord? To show the people how strong the security forces are, how brave are these defenders of our freedom. Whilst the enemy, if that is what he was, plasters the walls of the Manchester Arena, pebble-dashes the grey concrete edifice in a rich red hue. Are we all so stupid to take in this propagandising vision that the authorities would have us believe. That a 22 year old kid with no known technical ability could put such a complicated device together and walk past security and blow himself and a load more to their deaths.