Mary, my mother-in-law is seriously ill in hospital with a nasty case of pneumonia. There’s a substantial chance that she won’t make it. She just turned 51 and the last time I saw her, just a few weeks ago, she was the life and soul of the party.
My wife has flown back to Ireland and is sitting with her mum, who the medical staff are trying to stabilise enough to transport to the nearest hospital with a dialysis machine, because her kidneys have failed. Everyone is worried, scared, disorientated and utterly powerless.
I find myself wishing that I could do something to help – everyone who knows Mary feels the same. The members of the local community in the small town where Mary lives are lighting candles and saying prayers for her, family and close friends are all gathered around offering each other support in this bleak time. The only people who can do anything are the doctors and nurses who are looking after Mary – and of course Mary herself, who just has to hang in there until the antibiotics can do their work and the stress on her system decreases to the point where she can begin the process of recovering.
The rest of us are left with nothing but hopes that she will pull through and the fervent wish that we could somehow tip the balance of survival in her favour. This is when superstition and religion have their most powerful grip – when our hopes and wishes are the only things we have available to try and alter the course of very real and very important events. This is when every small thing we do takes on new significance – does me writing this blog somehow influence Mary’s recovery? This is when every phonecall makes your heart drop.
I do not believe that wishful thinking in itself will help Mary, but I will keep wishing Mary better, because even if it doesn’t help her, it will help reduce my despair at being able to do nothing at all.