Tuesday, July 26, 2016
I get lonely for Helen. I re-read some of the thousands of emails we exchanged over twenty years. News. Challenges. Grief. Stories. Support. Love. Solidarity.
She wrote about a mutual school friend who stayed behind to chat with her after a book club meet. Una was seven months pregnant forty years ago when she was summoned from Dublin to Cork by her family as her mother was terminally ill and wanted to die at home in the pre-hospice era. A few days after Una's arrival she woke up in the middle of the night with terrible pains that she thought might be labour. She lay there in terror.
The only phone in the house was downstairs in the hall and no one in the house she was reared in ever disturbed her father, a light sleeper, in the middle of the night. Ever. The punishment for one of her brothers who had the temerity to do so resulted in injuries that kept him out of school for over a week.
Una wept as she told Helen how she cried and moaned into her pillow all night, her body writhing in agony. In the morning she waited for her father to leave for work before she got out of bed. The pains had now stopped and she was relieved but she felt nauseous. Once the doctor arrived to administer morphine to her mother, she mentioned the pains of the night before and he evaluated the situation. He immediately summoned an ambulance.
The baby was born dead a few hours later.
Una said to Helen it was the first time she'd ever talked about all of it.
Helen wrote to me: "I'm only telling you because you understand that kind of terror."
Sadly, I do.