Monday, 12 September 2016

We Walk The Same Line


The Prof bounces out of bed in the morning like Julie Andrews.
At 5.30 am I look like Walter Matthau from The Odd Couple .
I have to get up at this ungodly time as it is my job to walk the dogs. So I drag my sorry carcass up, dress in anything I can grab and amble sleepily around the village until bladders are emptied.
Only then can we all return home en masse where we all silently stagger past a chatty and dapper Prof and return to a very warm duvet like baby rabbits in a pile of straw.

It's dark at 5.30am and for most part the village is asleep. We walk up past the church and along London Road and turn into Well Street where collective bottoms are lowered into the dewy grass of the village green. The cottages that flank the green are dark and lifeless and with only Mary left to " do jobs" we move on up High Street.

There were lights on in one of the neat bungalows , and I could see movement behind clean net curtains.
As The dogs sniffed at the grass with interest, I stopped to watch.
An  elderly woman was sat at a table with her head in her hands.
In front of her was a large mug, presumably filled with tea.
Another woman in some sort of uniform was standing by a bed set up against the wall. She was drying her ham arms with a towel.
There was another figure in the bed who I couldn't see clearly. But the small table next to the bed was filled to bursting with bottles and medicines.
I could even make out a discarded nebulizer hung over the headboard.

It was " an end of life" tableau,  one that we have all have been familiar with at one time or another

The exhaustion of the old woman was palpable and a song came into my head as I stood there, a gentle melancholic song by Everything But The Girl
The lyrics fitted the tableau perfectly
If you lose your faith, babe
You can have mine
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line
Now I don't have to tell you
How slow the night can go
I know you've watched for the light
And I bet you could tell me
How slowly four follows three
And you're most forlorn
Just before dawn
And so, if you loose your faith, babe
You can have mine
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line
When it's dark, baby
There's a light out shinin'
And if you're lost I'm right behind
Cause we walk the same line
And I don't need remindin'
How loud the phone can ring
When you're waiting for news
And that big old moon
Lights every corner of the room
Your back aches from lying
And your head aches from crying
And so, if you loose your faith, babe
You can have mine
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line
When it's dark, baby
There's a light out shinin'
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line
And if these troubles should vanish
Like rain at midday
Well I've no doubt there'll be more
And we can't run and we can't cheat
'Cause baby when we meet
What we're afraid of
We find out what we're made of
And so, if you loose your faith, babe
You can have mine
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line
When it's dark, baby
There's a light out shinin'
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line
And if you're lost I'm right behind
Cause we walk the same line
Walk the same line
And if you're lost I'm right behind
'Cause we walk the same line

88 comments:

  1. currently 6a here and I look like walter matthau. a bowl of cereal, a cuppa cawfee, and my laptop. I hate mondays.

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  2. You as a nurse may have a different opinion, but I find it so so sad that a live has to end like this. To see a once strong person suffer and helpless. Bless people like you are who make a life's end endurable!

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    1. As long as they are distress and pain free.......i think itis a wonderful " gift" nowadays to die at home

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    2. I totally agree with you!

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    3. I don't necessarily agree with dying at home. I did not realise at the time the stress and horror inflicted on my step mother when my father died at home. Although at the time I thought all was well, it was not. My step mother was going through a nightmare situation and I recommend professional care in a professional place, as where my step father died. I understand why people say they want to die at home, as I want to, and write my final blog post before I slip away, but that is not how it will probably happen. I am not going to inflict the dying at home thing on anyone. Good professional care in a good place is much better for the dying and those left behind.

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    4. I heartily agree with you Andrew.

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    5. Ive worked in a hospital for 34 years thats why i want to die at home

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  3. I love that band, though I don't know the song. It's interesting what you can see out and about in the early morning, isn't it? I see things on my walk with Olga sometimes, though nothing this poignant that I can recall.

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    1. The REAR WINDOW syndrome of watching others in their daily lives....i love that

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  4. Okay, I will admit it, I am a morning person, there has to be a few of us, or nothing would happen before noon. Great writing this morning.

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  5. Everything But the Girl - and one of my favorites of theirs. I'll listen to it differently now.

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    1. I saw them in concert at the ledmill in sheffield years ago......and fell in love with their music then

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  6. On rare occasions I am out driving through Sydney in the wee hours and when I see a light on I usually wonder what is happening inside. In my imagination it can never be anything good

    Beautifully poignant, John

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    1. Sydney , the most beautiful of cities

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  7. Like a frame from a movie...life observed. That is a lovely song John.

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  8. I remember my father's last afternoon, dying of cancer in a bed in the front room. It was like something out of a horror movie.

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    1. Yes, despite bes efforts it can be a dreadful experience forall involved

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    2. There were no McMillan nurses in those days; nearly 50 years ago. I still remember it like yesterday. He went a bit wild in the two hours before death, quite frightening. I suppose the cancer had spread everywhere. My brother and mother had to hold him down until a doctor arrived.

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  9. I know I am not alone when I wish that when I go, I will just die in my sleep, at home. Not hooked up to machines in a hospital room..

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    1. I want to beeaten by my dogs

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    2. I second this emotion. I h8 hospitals!

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  10. That is beautiful.

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  11. I believe that someone's end of life experience should be their own choice, if they are able to make it. I stayed at my Mum's home for the last 48 hours of her life, sleeping in the room with her, and know it was the death she wanted. It wasn't easy, but she had amazing care from the nurses that visited, both day and night. The lyrics you posted were so moving, I went onto YouTube to hear it...a beautiful song.

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    1. She has such an expressive voice

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  12. Death isn't pretty regardless of the setting. What I think is a shame is that at least in the US there is no place in our culture for dying or for people who have passed. Or those left behind. It's such a huge taboo.

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    1. Not pretty but with planning and support, it CAN be dignified

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  13. My step dad died at home, well actually at the home of some dear friends as he had to go to Colorado to say goodbye to family and friends. The experience did indeed have some features fit for horror stories(family politics and such...) but the peace in his room was palatable to all who entered and his passing was a beautiful necessity, albeit so so sad... I have never had so many tears fall from my eyes before or since.

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  14. Why don't you just let the dogs out into your yard out back for their early morning elimination needs? You could clean up your own yard the same way you clean up after them on the green and you could get back to bed sooner. Or....the Prof could let them out and you could remain in bed.

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    1. Winnie is fastidious and would never wee in the yard. Mary is just stubbon and needs to walk before she lets one go.. The boys , i leave in the garden, like men everywhere they piss everywhere and anywhere x

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    2. Winnie and especially Mary would learn to use the yard if that was their only choice. I've taught my pug to use an outdoor potty station, and to sleep til 8 or 9 AM. Also giving them a very late nite walk will help them sleep later. [You've had manyy dogs, I m sure you know this.]

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    3. The oroblem is the proff who is loud when getting up, he wakes the dogs

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    4. Hahaha What does he DO? Sings loudly in the shower, watches the early news on TV? Maybe he could tone it down a little, or let the doggies out himself? When my pug stays w/ friends who both get up at 5 AM, they have to carry him home to my house before work, not even food will get a pug up at 5 AM.

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  15. Will you stop making me cry......

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  16. I feel that two of the great human sacraments, birth and death, have been given over to the medical community. Humans are diminished thereby. The experience of a new life entering this world, and of a life lived exiting are primal, fundamental blocks in building society. They are the two things that all of us, all other differences excluded, go through. Both my parents were born at home, and died at home. My children were born at home, and I hope they can be at home with me when I die. Knowing that there is an end to every life is a gift I can give them. (Please forgive the rant. I have very strong feelings here, and seldom let them out.)

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    1. I agree.....we see many patients on itu who are just old and dying....they need to be home ( ifthey want to be there) and supported there

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  17. I really like real people . . .
    You are one of them . . .

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  18. I stagger out of bed, throw on my work clothes, go down to the kitchen, unlock the back door and shout 'anyone for wee wees' ... the ones that want a wee go out, the ones that don't stay in. Then it's kettle on ... and after a coffee I'm almost human 😊

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    1. Thats quick....im nit human till 9.30 am and thats pushing it

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  19. You are a lovely man, John Gray, you really are...

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    1. No I am not, dear broad, no am not ..ask Ursula......or Petra

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    2. I don't believe you .. you reek of kindness :)

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  20. Thank you for that evocative description of the tableau behind the net curtains. I have often looked at windows illuminated in the night or very early morning like that and wondered what might be taking place. I always come away with a feeling of sadness. Now I know why.

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  21. Empathy at its best.
    I've nursed 1 parent and 2 in-laws through hospice. The job of helping someone cross over is heartbreaking.
    The lyric you quoted were perfect.

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    1. I think that the singwriters partner was very ill,that what sparked the song in thefirst place

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  22. Very moving. I don't want to die in a hospital either. We were able to get my father back to his nursing home before he passed and I was so relieved, and so was he.

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  23. Wonderful lyrics John. I helped nurse my mother through her last month with pancreatic cancer (a month from diagnosis til death!) and with the wonderful Hospice nurse help, she managed to be pain-free and comfortable at home. When there is the right support and the conditions are right is it wonderful to be able to care for someone in a loving home environment, but for difficult high-need medical care I think we've got to work harder at making hospital care a better experience for families. How can we do that John?

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    1. Having a hospice ward in every hospital would be a start

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  24. I have been there myself John twenty five years ago with the ending of my first marriage in the death of my then husband (he died at home). You think the end of the world has come, but I am living proof that you can pick yourself up and carry on. The trouble is I think that the older one is the harder it becomes. I was only 59 and very active.
    I hope the person you saw through the curtains is having support and love from everyone - that is what makes it so much easier to go through.

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    1. Pat, me thinks you are a force of nature to be recon with

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  25. I remember hearing a song by "Everything But The Girl" and immediately going out to find an album.
    Dieing anywhere is a very sad and hard moment for all the family.
    I hope the woman finds some help for herself soon.
    Your words/story had me walking alongside of you this morning.
    I was there with you and the gud dugs.

    cheers, parsnip and thehamish

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    1. Idont know the occupants of the house ....so who knows the truth

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  26. Beautiful and thought provoking, John. I believe there are both positives and negatives to dying at home and that every situation is different. My mother passed this past June at age 97. My brother and I took complete care of her and worked full-time since 2003. We were exhausted both mentally and physically. She had COPD and cervical myelopathy and spinal stenosis. We did everything we knew to keep her healthy and happy. She was a bitter, angry and insecure person. She was afraid to live and afraid to die. We could tell her 50 times a day how much we loved her but she just didn't believe it. Over the previous 6 months she developed bronchitis 3 times and pneumonia in March and again in late April. We had decided that she needed more care than we could provide at home,even with help. She was peaceful at the end and died pain-free and comfortable with hospice care n a very good nursing home. My only regret is that we were not with her when she passed. I don't really care whether I die in a nursing facility or at home as long as I'm getting the best care available to me. I won't put my children through what my brother and I and our families through. Sorry for my verbosity! I love your writing John!

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    1. Nicely written yourself.
      Home care of the dying is not always practicable or possible for some. Nor is hospice care as hospice beds are few and far between.
      I think the answer would be nhs hospice beds adjacent to the hospital.

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  27. What a beautifully painted picture you created. I lost my dear friend, Jak last year. He wanted to die at home, but for him it did not work out. Nursing care here is very expensive and he needed it 24/7. Luckily he was in Hospice care and he was able to pass in a beautiful room in a beautiful place with people that were very caring. Of course we were also there with him the whole time to talk to him, read his favorite book to him, watch his favorite movies and to hold his hand. It was a beautiful thing in the end. I can't say enough good things about the Hospice workers and nurses that helped us all through. The facility he was in was in an old mansion that someone left to Hospice and the rooms looked like a regular bedroom with soft lighting and no buzzing equipment or monitors. The rooms were also equipped with private baths. There was even a kitchen so that I could cook his favorite meals and also a garden. I do wish that dying at home was more accessible. It is difficult if you do not have family or friends to help. Also very expensive. It is sad that going somewhere else is actually less expensive. Much of the Hospice care is covered by insurance and donations. Also what you pay is based on your income. Home care is not. The charge per hour is not unreasonable by any means, but if you need it 24/7, it becomes cost prohibitive for a working person. It is not covered by insurance. What a beautiful song and writing, John. It really brought it all back to me.

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    1. I want my next job to be in the hospice

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  28. It's bizarre the things you rember but when my darling Dad died, my Mum, Sisters and I were sat around his bed. The doctors asked if they could switch his ventilator off as his body was beginning to close down. In another part of the ward the closing titles of Coronation Street and the theme tune was playing. On the way home my hubby said 'I've always fucking hated that show'. My Dad always loved it, he had a thing for Elsie Tanner xx

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    1. He had good taste your dad, she was a pin up in her time

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  29. I am an early riser - and not a pretty sight. Then or later.
    The dying at home thing is complicated. Both of my parents died in hospital. Neither wanted to. And I still feel guilty that I couldn't meet their wishes. And would rather slip away quietly at home myself.

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    1. Sometimes practicality has to come into play with this sort of thing. Not everyone can cope with home nursing even if the care going in is good

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    2. My dear MIL wanted to come home when we were told on the Friday that she was not going to recover from her cancer. We had to say no because we just couldn't have managed an extended stay at her house. It haunts me still. She died on the next Monday. If only the doctor had been more clear and honest about what was happening and how fast it would happen, we could have given her her wish.

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  30. A few days before Ron's mom died of cancer she asked if we would take her home from the local country hospital. We did.
    It was the best request she could have made at this time. It enabled us to make her comfortable with all her familiar things around her and her favourite music playing in the background. She died three days later in the quiet of the house in which she was born.

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    1. Jimbo...lets hope there are people around for us when its our time.....somehow think that wont happen

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    2. Would be nice to think there was someone, John.

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    3. Would be nice to think there was someone, John.

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  31. When we drive home at night I always look at lit windows and wonder what might be happening beyond....

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  32. IF I had dogs indoors, I would not walk them early. I value my sleep, so they would have to be outdoor dogs!

    That was such a sad poem/song!

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    1. If you only want outdoor dogs, don't get a dog. It's a sad life, speaking of looking through lit windows you will never enter.

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    2. I second that. Dogs are part of the family. If you want an outdoor animal get a sheep!!

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  33. September has become a month of beginnings and of endings. I was born in a september my parents died in a september 10 days apart. I was with each of them at their passing, and it was the 55th year of their marriage in 2005. Mom did not want to die at home and did not. Dad had no plans to die. He simply stood up at 11 PM and fell down. His last words were "oh, shit". He did have a sense of humor. And i have been caring for my sister ever since. I too say oh shit and quite frequently. September has always brought change...the one true constant.

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    1. Millicent... I would hope my last words would be "oh, shit" or some other expletive! Despite the sadness of the topic your post made me titter a bit.

      Jo in Auckland, NZ

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  34. A friend of mine worked at the West Iskand Pallistive Care Residence in Montreal for more than 10 years. A non profit organization, the nursing staff works together as an incredible team providing support for the patients and families. These same professionals, on their own time fund raise to ensure the Residence continues to exist. Having attended Numerous fundraisers I had an opportunity to meet some of the staff. Having read your blog for several years now John you would be a wonderful addition to a hospice staff - as they are truly exceptional individuals.

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  35. You should work in a hospice and take your dogs with you as therapy dogs. I just visited my Mom who has been in the hospital on and off since june and took our dog who adores her. The staff encourages pet visits and says the patients improve with each visit.(as long as William doesn't poo on the walls!)

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  36. It's all about the cycle of life. I wish I could come to terms with it. Maybe when I grow up? Mind you when it comes to me I'm fine with it. It's only other living beings that make it tough.

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  37. Beautiful writing and that song is an all time fave and now also my and Rosie's song together. Everyone has a song with their dogs, right? With Buffy who has now gone on to be part of my high pack, our song was Power of Two by the Indigo Girls.

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  38. Once again, John, you've touched my heart. Best wishes from Downunder, Jan.

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  39. I found my way here via Codlins and Cream and I'm very glad I did. What a beautiful and touching post.x

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  40. And the line goes so fast. It seems like yesterday that I was wondering what I wanted to do when I grew up.

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  41. Apart from the Julie Andrews reference this was one of your sensible, touching and heartwarming posts. Other posts are always interesting, funny or somewhat shocking.
    To be so alert when only half awake and recognize the solitude and deep sorrow of a stranger down the alley, that says a lot about John Gray. Thank you for reminding us of the line...

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  42. Replies
    1. Well, you know, priests are soo prudent and bashful, it doesn't take much.... and I was wondering if that was Julie Andrews complete with singing birds and talking umbrella??
      I think he looks very nice, any ways!!!
      As for the shocking part, I was of course not referring to your delightful choice of words...no no , I learn a lot about the english language though!

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  43. and he IS just like bloody Julie Andrews

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  44. Great post as usual John...made my cry. I am not being sycophantic by the way... but I am sick and when I'm sick... I cry easily!


    Jo in Auckland, NZ

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