Friday, May 2, 2008


Martin is out of hospital. They have not found anything amiss despite a huge battery of tests. There is a remarkable difference in his condition between Tuesday and today. Tuesday he was really ill; breathless, unable to walk, coughing blood, chest pains, swelling in his legs and abdomen. Today he feels on top of the world - no pain, no coughing, no swelling. I took him home to his unit - he is really looking forward to a good night's sleep in his own bed. He has been told that if the symptoms recur he must go at once to emergency. I hope he has been frightened enough by this episode that he will.

Before he was discharged and I picked him up, I went to a funeral. I didn't know Mary, though I remember meeting her once - I went to show respect because she was my friend's mother-in-law. If funerals can ever be said to be enjoyable, this was one. Mary was 94 when she died. She had had breast cancer 60 years ago when she was in her early thirties. The only treatment then was mastectomy. She survived that, married, had a son and eventually three grand children, then the cancer came back early this year. This time she didn't fight it.

The funeral was a celebration and documentation of her life. Her father was a farmer who kept a journal. Bruce (her son) read some entries from 1913. They were quite ordinary: "picked stumps in the 500 (acre) paddock, bunged up hand". There were a couple more entries that mentioned his sore hand in passing, along with details of going to town (Kojonup) and then one entry with nothing else but: "Mary Dunlop arrived today at 4am". There were photographs (not on a big screen as seems most usual these days) of Mary at various points in her life and stories of her life as a farmer's wife and as a suburban widow. Nothing outstanding, but her family, especially the sub-teen grandchildren, spoke eloquently of her influence on them.

There was no weeping. Mary lived an ordinary life, but a life that her family will remember. As a stranger I appreciated it too.

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