Tuesday, March 01, 2011


There are times when you realize just how fragile life can be.  It seems that for the past few months so many dear friends (and relatives) have suddenly been struck down, unexpectedly in many cases, leaving a huge ache in my heart and making me feel so vulnerable.

The first shock was when my dear cousin Shiela in Wales had a stroke last November.  This was so unexpected and the tragic part is that she hasn't responded to physio and has been rendered unable to sit or stand.  This meant she had to be moved to a care home and will likely never return to her own home which she loved so much and worked so hard to get.  At the same time my other distant cousin Joyce,  also in Wales, who is quite elderly and in fragile health, also ended up in the hospital in a near death situation.  She's recovered enough now to be placed in a home and is doing okay other than some dementia.  Shiela turned 80 this month. Joyce is a bit older than that.

Then there was the big shock when our dear friend Dora, who was 83 going on 63 and always the Energizer Bunny, suddenly became ill on a flight home from California after the American Thanksgiving.  When she got home she had to check into the hospital with what turned out to be a burst appendix.  This woman has never been ill and had no idea that was what she was suffering. Who would imagine having a bust appendix at her age?  I can't imagine the pain she went through.  The most upsetting of all was when they discovered that the burst appendix was because of a malignant tumor, so they had to do an iliostomy.  She has now had to move out of the town to the care of her her daughter's on the Island.  Although she is gaining strength it isn't certain if she will recover completely - that will depend on whether all the cancer is gone and she has decided against treatments if it hasn't, resigning herself to her fate.

All this while another close friend who has been suffering from congestive heart failure was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and kidney failure.  We completely expected that Anne, 81,  would not survive and were prepared for the worst scenario.  Surprisingly she did pull out of it and in fact, I spoke to her today on the phone.  She's still in the hospital in very fragile condition and will be going into a home. And in spite of the ordeal is in amazingly good spirits.

Then, last night the biggest shock of all when I got a message about a friend who has been travelling in Peru.  I last heard from Lorna on the 24th as she was heading by bus to Chile and planned to visit a friend of mine in Santiago.  She's been travelling around the high Andes for some weeks now, having a grand time with many excellent adventures, and in spite of the high altitude was managing to see a lot.  The last message was from Lake Titicaca and she was leaving the next day by bus.  Well, somewhere along the line she got ill and was taken off the bus to a hospital in Chile (we don't know where) and there she died.  We don't know the details but suspect it was altitude sickness.  She was only mid 60's and had planned to travel through to Argentina before flying home.  Needless to say, we who know her are all in shock. 

This has all brought to mind exactly how fragile our lives are.  I am a traveller too, and an elder, and although I am in good health, who knows what might happen and when?  It is important then, to live the life you want, do the things you want to do,  enjoy yourself, the way Lorna was.  It was a dream trip for her.  How could she know it was her ultimate trip?

I mourn my friend's passing,  I worry about my friends who are ill and in care homes.  I don't like to imagine it happening to me.  But these are the realities of life.  Life is very fragile.  It is a gift.  Live it the best way you can.

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