I had a rather lovely experience earlier today. I was having a long walk along the seafront, as I have done pretty much every day since I recovered from my heart op, and a friend of mine called me over.A friend I know from accessing the same mental health support services. I hadn’t seen this chap for a while but he had obviously been keeping track of my recent health problems via faceblurt and the following rapid decline in my mental health for a very long, painful and destructive few months. Strangly enough I didn’t share the worst of it, like the smackhead like state of my arms once the nurses started running out of places to take blood or insert canulars and they started to get more and more creative, particularly when the blood thinning drugs started to make me hemorrhage all over the place. We talked about the operation and my week of having a death sentence hanging over my head that was preceded by a couple of months of merrily dragging myself and heavy crap up and down hills whilst oblivious of said death sentence. Anyway, the conversation turned to the aforementioned losing of the plot. It was done in the manner of a couple of Vietnam vets, people who who have seen terrible things and experienced far more unpleasantness in life than they should have. With looks, nods and gestures we established that I was not currently bonkers (well,not so much) and that the storm had metaphorically passed. Then he said the loveliest of things to me, it went something like this…
“I’m so glad to see you, I’m so glad you are on the mend. I know we aren’t close friends but you are one of those people I’m always happy to see and when I get to heaven I would love to be met by someone like you smiling at me because I know everything will be ok.”
We had a brief chuckle about how that would neccesatate me being dead and I laughed inwardly about the number of people who would; a) wish me dead and b) expect me to be heading in the other direction but I’ll take a complement when it’s offered.
I’ve been mulling this over ever since, pondering the absurdity of someone as flawed as myself reaching any kind of beatification. I pondered how I would draw myself as an angel, as I am now or as a slender twenty one year old with a head of flowing hair, an idealised Chris. The truth is though that, apart from wobbles, I am quite comfortable as I am really.
Then I pondered who I would like to be waiting for me and it could only be one person really, my father. Although I’d be scared of what he would have to say to me. He was a curious fellow with a deep sense of doing what was right. It’s important to note that right isn’t always the same as legal and in some cases it might not even be kind. He would happily syphon petrol from his work’s van to go in the family car and when I was a child he stuffed jewellery and some fancy wrist watches in my nappy whilst going through customs back from a family holiday in the tax haven of jersey. Yet if he saw a parent smacking a child in public he would flash them a very quick look at his driving license or golf club membership and tell them he was a plain clothed policeman and that he and his team will be watching them from then on and if they did it again they would have a nasty accident down the police station’s badly lit stairs. He’d seen some terrible things, my father, during the war, friends blown to pieces, hideous tropical diseases and cruelty.and earlier, the mindless, insular nature of small communities and the way they drag people down. He should have ended up down the mine, growing up in a Yorkshire pit village but he had his own mind and when the Second World War came along he got on a boat, got out and got away. Regardless of what various socialist groups or British movies may tell you, there is no dignity in being covered in filth, deep in the dark of the earth, ’til your lungs silt up, your back locks and your hands petrify into claws from the heavy machinery. My dad was determined that I would never do a job where I got my hands dirty and that I would not be a plumber / heating engineer like him or my brother, although being a permanently poor arty type, I often with I earn the kind of money that the average plumber does. My dad was a hopeless businessman though, he would fit a new pump or an expensive part of a boiler and only charge for a tap washer if they were a pensioner. My father, hard as nails and soft as shit. I hope he isn’t too cross with some of my less impressive crazy moments… Whoops!
That’s assuming that there is an afterlife, which I severely doubt. I thought I might get some notion of one in hospital or some sense of enlightenment from the extreme pain I experienced or the extreme nature of having ones insides cored through with a bunch of tubes and cables but, nope!, nothing. I’m still the same stupid, totally fallible and deeply flawed person I was when I went in. I guess the nearest I get to any sense of self redemption is the knowledge of what a spectacular mess I have made of various things. Self awareness is a start I guess… And that’s something.
Anyway, it was a lovely thing for someone to say and it made my day, plus the sun came out. Yippee!