Acceptance and Resistance

I’m off to see my doctor next Monday and have made a little list of things I want to discuss with him, hopefully to find out some causes and cures. As far as I know there’s nothing serious and it’s always a pleasure to see him – reassurance is one of his gifts. As I haven’t bothered him for a while I shan’t feel I am asking too much of the National Health Service, presently being drastically undermined by the criminally irresponsible ideas of our coalition government.

I seem to be spending a lot of time at the moment amongst people with very major health difficulties, and several visits to see some of them in hospital or at home has emphasised to me the physical – sometimes mental -difficulties of ageing. The consequence of living longer is that our bodies generate problems. Longevity doesn’t come without cost.

The challenge is to know when to accept what’s happening, and when to resist it. Sometimes there’s no choice. I have just visited an elderly lady of 93.

She lives alone, is looked after by her daughter and son who visit frequently, and accepting her limitations, lives in her own home positively and well. A recent visit to the audiology department of our local hospital left her exhausted – the noise and bustle and distance between places as she was wheeled from one place to the next. She was unable to sleep that night and the following day she was very weak. It didn’t help that she was recovering from a virus. No room here for resistance, only acceptance.

And yet she and so many others I know refuse to surrender to the self-pity and despair that can so easily accompany the infirmities and incapacities of old age. Dylan Thomas wrote his poem ‘Do not go gentle into that Good Night’ for his octogenarian father whose eye-sight and general health were failing. In the poem he urges his father to ‘burn and rave at close of day’, rather than giving into it.

Shades here of the character in Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part 1 with the line “Fight till the last gasp” .

The good people that I know who undergo the limitations of age are unlikely to resist the latter days of life as dramatically as that! But they would understand the argument. ‘Say ‘yes’ where you have to but ‘no’ where you can, would be their motto.

And mine too I hope.