I get in a funk at this time of the year. Spring can be as much about death as well as celebrating new life.
It’s worth a reminder that without death we wouldn’t fully experience life. Without loss we wouldn’t appreciate what we have. I am acutely aware of this at this time of the year.
Nine years ago this Spring, I suffered a crippling stroke that left me without sensation and completely paralysed on one side of my body. One minute I was full of life. Literally. I was eighteen weeks pregnant and I had a full and busy ¬†life; I was at home running a business and caring for a toddler.
I was well one minute and in the next moment I was in incredible pain and on the way out of this world.
if it wasn’t for the intervention of an incredibly skilled team of neurosurgeons, four of my children and I wouldn’t be here today. It’s a miracle of modern science that I didn’t die, given I had more or less a complete loss of cardio-respiratory function.
After the stroke I spent sometime in a rehab hospital. Whenever I looked glum, someone in my team would remind me: “Monique! Cheer up! It’s not a funeral.”
“But it could have been, you know!” they’d say. ¬†“Yours!” “By rights, you shouldn’t be here!”
Whenever I¬†grumped about the shitty hospital food, I would get comments about how surprising it was I was even here to both eat and complain; ¬†given my brain and brain-stem had been squeezed beyond repair in a process known as “coning“.
I almost threw up on my Physio the first time she told me about this. ¬†“Coning” describes the process by which¬†your brain and brain-stem are pushed downwards through a whole in your skull by swelling or in my case the pressure of a blood clot.
I was still pretty blue when after three months I was able to walk a short distance without the aid of a wheelchair or walking stick. I still needed the help of a full time nanny as I couldn’t care for my son on my own. A lot of time I was crawling to get around and unable to stand for extend periods of time to prepare meals etc. Even opening the mail was an exhausting business as my brain tired easily.
And then one day my nanny was sick and there was no-one else to look after my twenty month old toddler. That day I set myself up so that everything for the day was within reach and did a very basic job of looking after my son.
He was just so happy that Mommy was well enough to play again.
A month later I gave birth by c-section to my second child; I’d been pregnant with him at the time of the stroke.
I declined the offer of a wheelchair and walked into the operating theater; the proudest woman alive.
Life got better after that. I was able to appreciate what I had.
I hated that I limped but I loved that my legs gave me enough strength to care for my babies. I hated that I had lost my independence and couldn’t drive but I enjoyed chatting with the taxi drivers that transported me and my children around.
I was and am proud; I hated having help but I was reassured and renewed by¬†the team of helpers and carers I used to call “The Cheerleaders.”
I am vain and hated being physically compromised but I loved attaining the lofty goals that life had set for me: Learning to walk again.¬†Recovering my eyesight. Looking after my children full time.
Being able to drive again.Having more children. Getting more mobile and the ability ¬†to move around quickly.
As a male nurse said in the first few days when he assured me I would indeed walk, run and get control of my life again: “You may not ever be 100% of what you were, Monique, but the definition of a successful organism is one that is able to fight, fuck or flee!” “You’ll get there!”
Or as my Neurosurgeon said when he visited me in neonates after my twins were born. He congratulated me on my recovery and the birth of my twins. In his sexy Russian accent he declared: “Zis! Zis is what life is all about!”
“Congra tula tions¬†Mama!”
Life, Love, Loss:
Life, love and loss. You can’t have the first without the last. And recently and painfully I lost a cat. This time last week our ginger tom Blaster was outwardly well. He was eating, peeing and winding around our ankles and being generally affectionate. There was no sign anything was wrong. Monday I noticed he was peeing a lot in his litter tray. ¬†But he never had an accident and didn’t seem thirstier than usual. He was fine until I¬†noticed something was wrong Tuesday night. He came inside that night and I noticed his fur was standing out from his skin and he looked unhappy. I settled him in my sons’s bedroom. In the night I opened the door to check he was still inside. Usually he comes running. He didn’t and I couldn’t see him. I assumed he was outside and looked around and called for him for two hours in the middle of the night like The Crazy¬†Cat Lady.
At 6.30am I checked my sons’ room again. And there he was¬†lying prone in his litter tray. Hoping like hope nothing was seriously wrong, I tried to make him comfortable. I booked him into the vet first thing Wednesday morning. The vet was very reassuring. She diagnosed him with a bladder infection and outlined a treatment program for him. I talked to Blaster and told me the vet would make him feel better. He looked at me like he understood. He didn’t seem too uncomfortable and I was reassured enough to go home. The vet rang me shortly afterwards. He had kidney failure she said. They would give him some fluids through an IV line and this would hopefully flush out his kidneys while they sedated him and worked out the cause of the bladder infection. “Should I come down?” I asked. She said no, not to and I tried not to worry.
Twenty minutes later I hopped in the car and drove down. I couldn’t shake the feeling Blaster¬†needed me and disconcertingly I heard a couple of mews in my ear while unloading the dishwasher.
The receptionist asked me if I was Blaster’s Mom.She took me to an empty room. The vet came in. She explained to me that everything had gone really well. The procedure to unblock his bladder had worked. They were waking him up and he started talking to them. The vet left to write up her notes. Then five minute later the technician had called her back to say Blaster was unresponsive. He had died while I was driving down to the vet clinic.
“It really looked like he was going to be fine,” said the vet. “You must have known something to come down, she said.” I nodded. I took the box of tissues home. I broke the news¬†to the kids. They all looked winded. We cried together. Then we went down to the clinic to say goodbye.
Our poor dead warm kitty. I think we all hoped he would come back to life as we stroked him one last time. They had cast his pawprints in plaster as a memory and we left with this, our¬†memories and sad hearts.
“Can we get another cat today, “they asked later?” “Another ginger cat!” “Blaster mark 2,” said Axel. Kids recover quickly.
I’m still heartbroken. He was such a handsome cat. But¬†the pain is lessening day by day.
You can’t have life and love without loss.