People ask me how I can bear to take on a child who has a limited life expectancy. Why I would put myself through the pain of loving a child who may not have very many tomorrows. I don't really have much of an answer, except to say that it is what I do, what I was designed to do, and I like to think I'm pretty good at it.
I might also talk about how there are no guarantees in life. I might mention that any child can walk under a bus tomorrow, develop untreatable cancer, be stabbed for a mobile phone or just be unlucky in any one of a hundred different ways. Perfectly healthy children can have horrible accidents at any stage of life, and either die immediately, or be left profoundly disabled, the life they thought they had ripped into shreds.
All true. And yet, it doesn't really change the reality of knowing you will outlive your children. Oddly, there is some comfort in that. Trying to arrange affairs for an adult who is so profoundly disabled that she is totally unable to make decisions for herself is incredibly difficult. Will the staff be kind? Will they ever understand the way she makes herself known? Are they in it for the money? Will they talk to her, or be more interested in talking to each other about their social lives? Will they love her like I love her? Will they manage the constant tweak and juggle of changing medications and feeds? There's comfort in knowing that won't be an issue.
But there's also the unchangeable fact that one day, you'll drop a ball. Or so many balls will be added to the juggle that it simply won't be possible to keep up. Or knives and flaming swords will be added into the mix. Pick your own metaphor, the truth is one day no matter what you do, it won't be enough, and your child will die.
Too much thinking like that and I start to wonder myself how I do this, and why. But there really are no guarantees. Goldie was not officially life limited. According to all her medical reports, all her prognoses, she should now be sitting around (actually, looking at the time, she should now be lying in her bed, waving her hands above her head and singing the hokey cokey) enjoying life as a fully fledged adult, with a team of staff to do her bidding. Instead she's enjoying a rather different party, whilst those dancing arms along with the damaged remains of the rest of her body lie under six feet of soil and a handful of flowers. No guarantees.
She'll be in good company. My Great Aunt died this weekend. Or possibly slightly before the weekend, we aren't sure.
In her 90s, not unwell, and living independently. It's easy to mutter platitudes about it "being her time" or "she had a good life". She did have a good life; a rich and varied busy life, but then she died alone. It may have "been her time"; but I'm not sure it was mine, nor any of those who loved her. And now there's all the mess which death leaves behind, as well as the rawness and disbelief that someone who was there just last week somehow isn't there any more. I don't think that is eased by the knowledge that her life was long and rich and deep, or not yet at least.
More life limited stuff. Two cats. One ancient, greying, elderly, with failing kidneys and on daily medication. Much warning about the fact that he didn't have long to live, and just needed a place to rest for the end of his days. And one young, bouncing, teenage ginger tom. All stressed and fretful but with a long and full life ahead of him.
So which cat is currently in cat hospital fighting for his life with double pneumonia, on oxygen and not expected to survive the night?
I think I'll take my life limited ones, both children and cats and anything else which comes along. They seem to be outliving the others.