open-ended life – May 1969

Old people’s home, Stuttgart (written 2021)

When I entered her room, the smell was always a mixture of fresh linen,  disinfectant and the faint odour of an old woman.

She was lying in her pristine bed, in her clean room, bright with large windows. I never saw her moving. She kept her eyes closed, was, however, muttering in some dialogue with someone only visible to her.

It became my regular duty to feed her lunch, pureed. My sense of awe changed. Prior to feeding her, what made me become still, was a fullness of presence in the room. Now, sitting or standing with the plate and a spoon next to her bed, observing how Mrs R opened her mouth when the spoon touched her lips, took the food, munched and swallowed, it became something different. My awareness and her far-away awareness.

More than 35 years later, as a social worker in England, I realised Frau R’s awareness had given me a yard stick for life. There was a sanctity in Presence, deep respect for the simple needs I was able to meet.

The nurses and care staff had taken me on for Sunday early shifts upon my speculative application, walking in one week day after school. They treated me with tenderness, and, I deduct now, also with something akin to respect.

Presence in the quiet room

light and white sheets –

her mind unfinished talk

===

~ by Barbara S on March 4, 2021.

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