A liminal space

Every Monday night, bins go out for collection, a ritual shared by lucky urban dwellers everywhere. I’ll be glad when my neighbour returns from the US, as he’ll be putting out our bins then.

Most weeks I order groceries online. Every second Tuesday and Thursday, a domestic worker cleans the house, changes the bed linen and hangs out the washed sheets. Every fortnight a palliative care nurse phones to touch base with Ken. A podiatrist visits six weekly.

The markers intensify – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday a personal care worker arrives to help Ken get ready for the day. Instead of washing daily, I’ve tied that task to those visits. The worker helps me by putting the wet washing on the clothesline. I feel less like a frazzled laundress.

This is what is called support to enable us to stay at home longer, as we age. Or, as we die.

Then, the irregulars. Making phone calls to arrange visits and appointments, liaising with the pharmacist to ensure medication supplies are constant. Filling in the gaps for Ken’s personal care and supervising his medications.  Making beds. Unpacking groceries and putting them away. Forays to the local shops for the special apple juice or other foods that manage to trick his fickle taste buds. Responding to loving inquiries about how we are both coping.

‘You need to rest more’, says Ken.

‘I know’, I reply.

When the lengthy report of Ken’s ACAT assessment arrives, there’s a sentence ranking Caregiver Strain. I’m ranked 12/15 – at moderate risk, they say.

When Ken returns from his second hospitalisation, my visiting stepson shoulders the spare bed and manoeuvres it down the stairs. We create a daybed in the living room. It is a great success. Ken is pain-free when lying flat out, and this maximises his comfort. It minimises my trips upstairs to tend to his needs.

Daughter and grandsons drop by. I see Cass’s eyes widen as he takes in Ken, now frail, lying in what for years has been known as ‘Cass’s bed’, in its shocking new role and location.

My coffee mornings have shrivelled like a dried-up date. I decide to change my strategy – mornings are full-on, and I am loathe to leave Ken for long. In the afternoon, he goes upstairs to his bedroom for a long, deep sleep. There’s my chance to invite a friend or meet someone in a nearby café for an afternoon pick-me-up.

It’s calm and peaceful now. A new medication, and a truncated course of palliative radiation, seems to have given Ken a brief reprieve. But things can change quickly in this downhill slide.

I am grounded by routines like slow waking in the morning with a cup of tea and The Atlantic. As an unfamiliar darkness rests awhile longer against my bedroom window, I’m reminded that daylight saving ends in a few days. I feel as if we’re in a liminal space, Ken and I, hovering in this uncertain transition between life as we’ve known it, and the unknown. It’s a transformational space, entered by invitation only. A space that calls forth our willingness and permitting, and reverence.

I hear Ken call. My day – our day – has begun.

A liminal space »

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16 Responses

  1. Thank you Ruth. I always find Good Friday a liminal space…with 99% of shops closed….summer over but still some heat…winter coming with some cold nights. The first quarter of the year done and what have I done with it and what will I accomplish with the rest of it? It is a contemplative day yet somehow an uneasy day. And here I am preparing the house for sale, culling, and where I am going to lay my head next is unknown. Yes…the whole story of Easter is about Transformation….death to old and rising to new.
    But I have my health.
    Thank you for shining the light on your personal transformational space. My love and strength flow to you both.

    1. Leonie, thank you for sharing your liminal space. Moving house, relocating, moving on – such a powerful space in which to be held. Journey well, with love.

  2. Ruth, this is so deeply moving to read. I hope that you can keep your space as safe and supportive as you both need.
    Your capacity to make necessary practical adjustments without having to worry about hangers-on is instructive.
    The noisy world outside is once again rushing to over-consume, time and people as well as food and drink.
    Thank you for sharing the peaceful quality of your time. It is a gift for me too.

    1. Cecile, thank you. You write of our noisy world, ‘rushing to over consume, time and people, as well as food and drink’. How it gorges our time! Watching Ken eat (or eat so very little) I wonder at the difference between what we need to stay alive, and what we consume daily. And wonder often at how the Gazans have managed to hold to life, despite being ‘on the brink of famine’ for many months. Stay well.

  3. Ruth, my sister has recently recommended two books- which might help you. You MAY be interested. You have certainly created a picture of your life with Ken at the moment. The two books are- “Proof of Heaven” by Eben Alexander, MD- Messages of forgiveness, love and healing. And “Dying to Wake Up”, by Dr Rajiv Parti, MD- a true story of a medical doctor’s journey into the afterlife and the self-healing wisdom he brought back. My sister says there is nothing to fear- in dying- that your spirit continues and you are in a space where you meet with spirits of people in your past. She was unable to convince my mathematics teacher father of this. Nevertheless she is drawn to this way of thinking.

  4. What do I say dearest Ru?
    Just that you are both going through such a struggle which reminds me of when I fought oesophageal cancer all those years ago.
    I feel so much for you both and love you.??

  5. Oh Ruth, such a sad and powerful piece. I feel you holding the rails, the slow walking treadmill to the inevitable. The awefullness only glimpsed through Cass’s eyes. I am in awe of your ability to keep writing but I guess that too keeps you steady as well as the routines.
    My thoughts and love are with you both.

    1. Deb, thank you for the treadmill image – it is slow, yes, and then a change can come so suddenly. And Cass – through the eyes, we see the unseeable. With love, Ruth.

    1. Cecile, my original reply to you ‘disappeared’ so I still have not replied. Meanwhile, this is a test. Let me know if you get an email notification of this. Thanks.

  6. Thank You Ruth.
    Great that you are still a gremlin slayer with all that’s going on. I do appreciate how important comments and connection are, at any time, but especially now. Hopefully might see you soon.

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