Devotion

When I moved to Edinburgh in 1990, I shared a flat with a girl in her early 20s, a diabetic. One day she had an accident and missed a necessary insulin injection. She went into a coma and was hospitalised. She moved, her eyes were open, but there was no communication. Over the following months I became friendly with her heartbroken parents, then gradually lost touch over the years when my family moved here and I left the flat. We exchanged Christmas cards; each year the card came from them and their daughter, so we knew she was still alive. But if there had been any breakthrough they would have told us. This November they phoned to tell us she had died peacefully. I was away on business on the day of the funeral, so Madame and I went to visit them just before New Year. It was an enjoyable visit – a large room in the darkening afternoon, with ticking clocks and the waves of the Forth in the distance -  where the darker subjects weren’t avoided but didn’t dominate.  I was in awe, and a little admonished, by their devotion. They’d been to the hospital to visit her, to talk to her, almost every day for 19 years. While there was no medical hope held out for a recovery (that much was clear in the first week back in 1990), there was still a chance, they maintained, that she could hear them. So they came every day, chatted, talked about their daily life. Now she’s gone and they have to find a new life. They’re still fit, bright and interested so they will find one. The level of their devotion and commitment shocked me, but, as they’d say, what else could they do?

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