I was reading some of Jane’s writing today. She had started her life story numerous times, and once I can work out which bits she wanted to share and which were for us only, I will finish writing it for her. Mixed in with her deep thoughts were notes on how to understand and respond effectively to a range of complex medical issues.
When Jane first met me, I was barely able to move forward, stuck in a horrendous relationship break up in a small town. However, she saw potential in me. To be fair, Jane saw potential in everyone. She had the knack of seeing exactly what people’s hidden skills and talents were and guiding them to live in ways that meant those skills and talents were used and grew. This was one of her core purposes in life, to help others achieve their potential.
The raw emotion in Jane’s writing caught me unawares. She was a deeply compassionate and kind GP, a caring and big hearted soul who wanted to save all the dogs and old people from any distress. She would cry at the slightest thing on tv and had the biggest smile, but in general her writing was pharmacology based and humorous or factual. This writing was reflective and carried the pain of years of being stuck when she was younger.
One of our friends said that Jane was one of the kindest people he had ever met, that the world doesn’t have many people that kind in it. Ironic that her kindness was born out of prejudice and feeling not good enough. As a child, her ADHD was not understood, she spent most of her education being sent out of class and left school as soon as she could to work with her mum as a cleaner. As a young adult, she realised she was lesbian and had the fear that she would be found out and then faced prejudice that led to her feeling less than.
The pain that years of this brought, was tempered in our 14 years together, but sometimes she would get stuck in her ‘less than’ pain and I would struggle to bring her back to her beautiful warm smile, filled with love and happiness. Her writing laid bare that pain and the contradictions in life that frustrated her so much. The contradictions of her life and death now frustrate me and Chico struggles to make me get out of bed on the weekend to walk him.
The contradictions are that after a year of worrying about Jane’s health, following two week long hospital stays and numerous significant issues, she seemed to be doing much better until a couple of days before she died. Jane was loving helping patients get access to healthcare that had all but disappeared during the pandemic and had finally set up her mobile clinic and was working with her brother on her online stuff. I was driving her around to see patients in the evening once I had finished work, making sure she was safe.
She didn’t get covid and I still don’t know why or how she died, but she was probably one of the best health care professionals around. She could work out the diagnosis for someone in an hour, but we had spent a year traipsing around various health professionals to find out virtually nothing. We both knew she was really really unwell, and we both knew she ran the risk of dying soon, but none of the health professionals seemed to think this.
I can’t get stuck in this what if, this pain of what I lost. I need to be in that place of gratitude for what I had, and acceptance that Jane is no longer in pain, no longer suffering. Somehow, reading her pain, which should have reinforced that she is no longer suffering did the opposite. Memories of us laughing, smiling, enjoying life, sharing joy with whanau, everything that is not going to happen again. Jane just adored me and her goals always included having fun in our relationship. This was really hard when she was unwell, when she was so tired, so physically unable to do the everyday things that she wanted. She got stuck for a while in the pain of becoming disabled suddenly, but as was her want, she reinvented herself, taking Chico out on her mobility scooter.
Be kind to people, you don’t know if they are stuck, and if so why. People have all kinds baggage that they carry with them, even if they don’t choose to share or aren’t able to share. Whether a person is a stranger or a partner, we only know what they are able to share. In the last weeks before Jane died she opened up more than in the previous 14 years and was truly on the path to healing. Ironic. Be patient and kind, if it is clear that someone is stuck, walk alongside them until they are ready and able to move forward too.