I don’t know what it is about another person’s suffering but when I saw Viktor laid out on his bed he reminded me of Christ. His knees were pulled up and bent to the left. His arms unfurled, limp and useless. His only movement was to be in his head and mouth when he indicated he wanted his favourite treat, trifle. The crumpled bed sheets that covered his frail body were a poor man’s shroud.
If I looked at him as he was, what I would say was ‘please kill me’ before that stage. But Viktor seemed to cling onto life with every last breath. Even if his only pleasure was his mid-day trifle and that view out of the double windows, and onto his beautiful garden.
Myself and the other carer would gently pull Viktor over to change his pad and I could see Viktor wince at just being moved. I wondered if he would break; his arms and legs seemed so fragile. On the wall was a signed certificate from the doctor. It stated that in the event of a heart attack ‘Do Not Resuscitate.’ ‘Do Not Call An Ambulance.’ So he clearly wanted to die and what kind of mind has to sign a declaration not to resuscitate one’s self?
We changed Viktor’s pad and cleaned him up. Sometimes Viktor would attempt communication but it was difficult to understand him due to his Parkinsons. It seemed he required every bit of energy to speak, that in the end he couldn’t be bothered. I ask myself again from my position, if the same happened to me, would I want to live? and in my head, I would say no. But I can’t say I would have the courage to die if I was in that position.
Maybe as one approaches death and you have cleared all fears out of the way, every moment becomes a pleasure. If able to ignore the pain. Maybe that trifle was like heaven, each mouthful. Maybe it was miraculous to just stare out onto the garden, and take in the flowers, and the changing weather. Maybe I would decide to live each moment to the last. But that would be my choice wouldn’t it?
Viktor was Scottish and sometimes after we shaved him we would play The Flower of Scotland on the Ipad. I imagine him now in the foothills of heaven. Listening to the bagpipes and running free.