Marjorie Dobson (1940 - )
© Copyright 2004 Stainer & Bell Ltd,
23 Gruneisen Road, London N3 1DZ, Used by permission.
sung by Gareth Moore
My husband will have his life ended in the next few months by his bowel cancer. But although the cancer will kill him, he will die with Parkinson’s, blindness, restricted mobility due to a fall and the recent onset of deafness. During this period of Covid19 we have been unable to get the help we needed to cope with his distressing problems. Health care professionals and the hospice care team were overwhelmed by the pandemic and stretched to their limits and we could only wait until the situation eased. We had been paying for four hours a week of help with housework, shopping and the occasional car ride to the seafront café for my husband, but our cleaner/carer had to isolate because her own mother had to be shielded, so we even lost that support.
Obviously, no one has been able to visit us, but several kindly people have telephoned in order to keep in touch and to enquire about our health. The conversations have usually ended with the well-meant words, ‘look after yourselves.’ What could we do? And how could we do it?
The whole situation became a litany of problems of Job-like proportions, with the refrain of ‘what else can go wrong?’
Thousands of people have been in similar positions. We have every sympathy for those who have caught the virus and especially for those families who have lost one of their members. Most of them had no chance to say goodbye, or to have friends and relatives attend the funeral service. But when the care system that so many people rely on breaks down for any reason it creates great problems. The scale of this epidemic has been devastating for those who rely on support for their caring role and have suddenly found themselves stranded and alone.
In our own situation we had just begun to look for more help and had made initial contacts with the local hospice, but the realisation that we would have to wait for months for further help was disturbing.
I found the words of my own hymn were coming back to haunt me. It was written about twenty years ago, when two of my church friends were caring for their husbands in the last stages of their lives. One had terminal cancer, the other had very severe dementia. Although they wore their stressful situations lightly, the pain and stress of these women’s caring roles was written into the weariness and sorrow that they tried to hide with smiles and brave words. Now I find myself doing the same thing, but I know well ‘those dark and lonely hours when the silence mocks belief.’ I’ve ‘watched in helpless love’; and I’ve ‘cried out in pain that this suffering will not last.’ I also know that I shall feel that ‘tormented peace, as emotions swirl around, sorrow mingled with release’ when the end comes. It is happening every day and so many more people have known this in the dreadful months we have just experienced.
Yet, even as I began to write this, help is beginning to return. As the virus infection rate dies down, the caring organisations are beginning to pick up their support for carers and patients again. Last night I slept better than I had for months because a Marie Curie nurse was able to stay overnight to care for my husband and let me sleep. Other arrangements are also being made for his care and mine. He will live on for an unknown time yet. But, when the end comes, I know that God will gently turn me ‘back to life again.’ The silence has mocked my belief; my caring love has worn thin, but God is still waiting for us both on the other side of this experience.
Until then, my prayer is in the last two lines of the first verse:
‘God of understanding heart, give us strength to play our part.’
When our caring love wears thin,
when our nerves are stretched and taut
and the strain of our concern
fills our every waking thought –
God of understanding heart,
give us strength to play our part.
When we watch in helpless love
when all hope of health is past
and distress cries out in pain
that this suffering will not last –
God of healing, hold us near,
bring your calm and drive out fear.
When our tears speak out our love,
when by smiles we mask our grief,
in those dark and lonely hours
when the silence mocks belief -
God of comfort, to our night
bring the dawning of your light.
* When the one we loved has gone,
when death brings tormented peace,
as emotions swirl around –
sorrow mingled with release.
God of patience, bear our pain:
turn us back to life again.
* Last verse should be omitted if inappropriate
© Copyright 2004 Stainer & Bell Ltd,
23 Gruneisen Road, London N3 1DZ, www.stainer.co.uk.
Used by permission.