It’s my birthday week this week and I have had a very happy time celebrating my incredible good fortune to be here at all and to have had the lucky, mostly happy life that I have had. So much of life is chance it seems to me. Getting the specific set of genes that got me to be me in the first place, then being born when and where I was, and not somewhere grimmer, and then all the other good fortune all down the line – some of which is the luck of avoiding misfortune – the sliding doors to more difficult chapters of life that may have happened but didn’t.
One sad thing this week is the death of one of my favourite clients. I worked with this guy (whose first initial was G) for around 6 months – he had very bad health (or he wouldn’t have got to me) – and was frail in most ways. He was a tall man, and weighed less than 50 kg – he had great difficulty swallowing, among other things. He was mentally frail as well as physically, and it was quite difficult to understand his speech to begin with. However, once we got going, I really enjoyed talking with him. He was funny and warm.
I had an appointment with him one week, but the day of the appointment I felt really unwell – flu-ish (it turned out to be the start of the illness that I was hospitalised for myself). I went to work partly as we had to sort out his electricity bill, and I didn’t want him to be cut off, but I didn’t want to actually see him as I thought I might be contagious (good call Elizabeth!). So I ended up in the office with two phones in action, him on one line, the electricity company on the other – speaker phones, microphones, the lot. His voice was quite soft, so there was yelling and repeating things across the various ethers – ridiculous, but it got done in the end and we all hung up with me promising to ring him in a few minutes to check that all was ok after I had done the paperwork that was required. I did so, and he answered the phone saying “This is ground control”, which cracked both of us up.
I feel really lucky to have met him, and to have shared a little of our time on the planet, but I am sorry his life (and death) was so difficult. There are many people who don’t get much of a chance in our society, who are disregarded by the powerful and are subjected to indignities and disrespect in so many ways. They haven’t asked for it, and don’t have much control over it. It drives me nuts when I see it, and I do, again and again. Life is complex, and people too. I am sure this man was also really hard to live with and would not always have been a good father to his kids, but he was a decent guy, and with different luck along the way, he may have had a happier life and an easier death. He would have known he was loved – and as it stands, I don’t know that he did.
So, if you are reading this post, please raise a cheer for G. He had an impact on me, and I won’t forget him. (And here is David Bowie in his honour)