Old buffalos fade away.

One of the worst things of working as a carer is that people you become close to over several years finally succumb to illness or the vagaries of old age. One of my most gorgeous clients passed last night. Professional boundaries prevent me from writing much about her. Suffice to note that over 40 years ago she was one of the movers and shakers in women coming into their own in University Life, Professional Development and Australian society. Over the past years dementia took hold but she still enjoyed life and conversing about world affairs and music, in between episodes of what we used to call lunacy.

Long time agonist readers will know of my infatuation with womens’ issues on the African continent. I was pleased to read this The Buffalo departed. It helped console my grief. Women pilgrims both who crossed the old ways and saw the new ways. I wonder what the buffalo would think of the lekker teenagers in Zimbabwe today.

My client sang this with me often: Vale A.

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  • The linked article is beautiful and wise; i understand why you found it consoling.

    Death has a way of reducing life to its essentials and letting us come to terms with the incomprehensible.
    When you tell your children ‘the facts of life’, somehow Death doesn’t get discussed, yet it is a major – perhaps the major – fact of life.

    It is one of the tragedies of dispersed families that all too often one’s death occurs apart from those closest to us.
    When generations live together, death in a family is a common experience and in my opinion it is a profoundly humanizing experience.
    When death is kept at arm’s length, its place in the process of life is not grasped and internalized.
    All too often, people see death as something unnatural, so they fear it and consequently fear life.
    Just as Life has a lesson for us, so does Death.

    You have my sympathy and respect for the work you do.

    • Thanks steeleweed. On Australia day a week ago our local public broadcaster interviewed the Australian of the Year, and inter alia spoke about her own experience of finally getting to know death, when she lived in Papua New Guinea, where the whole village would stay up all night celebrating the life of the deceased. I have looked for a podcast but can’t see it.

  • Thanks for sharing, Graham.

    I make it a habit of thinking about death once in a while. I wonder how old I will be when my time comes and under what circumstances I will pass away. My favorite death would be to die outside during an early evening sunset, looking up at the stars in the sky. It’s a shame our institutions don’t plan for an ‘outside’ death for people who would prefer that. When working in Palliative Care, I felt sad for the old farmer I cared for – he had spent his entire life outdoors and here he was, destined to die in a small, dark hospital room.

    Sometimes I wonder who of my many siblings will be the first to die.

    Anyway, I’m not afraid of death. Frequent engagement in ‘death thinking’ helps me view it as a normal part of life. Every story has to have an ending.

    • When I was managing a Dementia unit Graham, I often was relieved when a patient died. One woman in particular springs to mind. She was aphasic, completely bed-ridden and her upper and lower limbs were in a permanent state of contraction. She couldn’t move an inch. She lay like that for 10 years before she passed away. I viewed her death as an escape from hell.

      However, as is your situation, it’s different when you start caring for someone who is in the earlier stages of Alzheimers. Then you develop a special relationship with the person.

      Here are some essays I wrote way back about how to prepare for your own potential Alzheimers disease. I posted the 2nd essay in the comments.

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