Day 59

Spent most of the day in hospital visiting Elsbeth. Reverend Dave's get-in-free-card appeared to still be working its effect from yesterday, or else I looked so mournful that they took pity on me and let me stay the whole day.

Elsbeth was completely transformed, almost miraculously one might say. She was rosy cheeked and full of her usual humour. There was a constant stream of visitors, mostly from her church, and the phrase "Praise God" was heard a lot. Even the nurses were a little bemused at Elsbeth's quick recovery, given that she was at death's door yesterday.

I don't care if it was miraculous or some wonder drug in the intravenous or Elsbeth's iron constitution - I'm just happy to have her back. I couldn't face another loss.

Reverend Dave (or Rev as the young people call him) sat with me a while after the visitors left, and we chatted to Elsbeth and each other. He must be in his mid thirties, a very hip man of God, full of compassion and wisdom beyond his years. I asked him if he thought that Elsbeth's recovery was because of his prayer. He shrugged and replied, "Does it matter? Whatever happens I firmly believe that my Father knows what he is doing. I'm happy Elsbeth is still with us, but for us death is not a bad thing, its the beginning of great things, so either way it would have been ok."

It struck me that grief is quite a selfish thing really. If Joe was indeed in a better place then I should be happy for him, not miserable because I no longer have him around.

I asked Elsbeth if she minded dying. She looked at me for a long time before replying: "No, of course not. But I think I would miss you."

I almost burst into tears.

Day 58

Elsbeth is seriously ill in the county hospital with double pneumonia.

It all happened in a bit of a blur. I visited her this morning, saw how she was and immediately called the emergency services who whisked her off to hospital. Elsbeth asked me to call Dave, her church pastor, who came straight away.

We sat in the waiting room for what seemed like ages while the hospital staff attended to Elsbeth. They didn't really want to let me see her, but "Reverend" Dave got us in. My heart almost broke when I saw her, frail, wizened little thing in a sea of white, tubes everywhere, just like Joe. Not again!

Dave asked me if I would pray with him. I felt really uncomfortable. Not only do I not really believe in God or the efficacy of prayer, but prayer feels to me like something you do in private and not with someone you've just met. However I relented in the end and Dave prayed, not just for Esbeth's healing, but also for her to be at peace and for God's will to be done.

I don't get that prayer. On the one hand Dave is asking for stuff, yet he's saying do as you like, God. I don't want God to do as he likes. Look what happened to Joe. I want Elsbeth to get better!

Let's face it, looking at this crappy, miserably world we live in, would you surmise a loving Purpose behind it all?

I don't think so.

Mind you I felt the same way when my dad beat my backside for burning down the shed. He claimed he loved me and it was for my own good, but it hurt like hell nonetheless.

Day 57

I went over to Elsbeth's today, only to find that she's been ill with a very nasty flu bug, poor thing. Her normally immaculate place was in quite a bit of disarray so I tidied up a a bit, made her some soup and many cups of hot lemon honey tea.

She wanted to get up but I made her stay in bed and so spent most of the day in her lounge, reading Silas Marner.

Between the chapters I would pause and listen to the silence: the ticking clock, the cars as they drove by, the distant noises of other inhabitants. The blue sky shone brightly through wintery trees and I felt a strange feeling: contentment.

Was this all that it took: a morning of selfless devotion? All those years of unsatisfied material hunger and fruitless toil, and here was the answer, in this doily infested flat of a dear old sick woman who had touched my heart so.

I didn't know whether to feel elated or immensely foolish.