I’m going to start with a disclaimer! This was a blog post constructed on a train, the image was sketched on a train, my thoughts are sketchy – I’m not sure if this stands up but am putting it out there, a half way constructed post, for discussion, debate and musing over. Please do share your thoughts, experiences and opinions in the comments.
2012 was a major year of loss for me. My Grandfather had a fall at the start of the year, breaking his hip, recovering, then falling again later in the year and being admitted to hospital. He switched hospitals but never returned home, dying in July. In his 90s, having lived a full and productive life, his death was a big loss for our family but it was also a release in a way. I still miss him frequently, but for me it’s not painful any more.
My Dad died in November 2012. He had found out he had cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) five years previously, days after his 60th birthday in Nov 2007. He lived with a terminal diagnosis for his last two years and in many ways cancer was a positive experience, Dad worked hard to find the positives. In some way I think I started grieving for Dad as soon as we knew his condition was terminal, there were periods where he was very poorly and they acted like preparation for loss. I found it painful to watch Dad’s health deteriorate and watching him stoically soldier on was almost more painful than his death in a way. We received amazing support from our local hospice and after a period as an inpatient, Dad returned home and died at home a number of weeks later.
When it came to grieving for Dad, my pain was almost as strong for him when Grandad died, as it was for Grandad. There was something about the injustice of it all. It was also painful (for me) in the weeks immediately before Dad’s death, which when it came, almost provided relief. I’ve tried to plot this on the following graph, where Grandad’s death is the orange and Dad’s the blue:
This week Sara Ryan yet again shared the trajectory of loss that she has faced. Since her son, LB, died unexpectedly in an NHS treatment facility. LB was a young man in rude health, just 18 years old, having has epilepsy for a number of years, he drowned in the bath. Horrendous enough as that is for any family to deal with, the trust ‘responsible’ for his care have made mistake after mistake after mistake, in how they are treating the family. Sara’s tweets explain it all here.
Now I’ve not asked Sara about this, but from where I sit the behaviour of Southern Health is tantamount to emotional torture, the constant promises and let downs, agreeing things then changing their minds, always moving the goalposts. I don’t know what possesses them, and I don’t want to discuss that here, I just want to consider what damage their behaviour is likely to do. Thinking of the trajectories of grief I shared, I’ve overlaid how I think it must feel to suddenly, out the blue to hear that your fit and healthy son has died…if that’s not enough to break you, there is no let up to allow grief, pain and loss to subside because the people responaible are toying with you, constantly screwing your emotions. I guess it might look something like:
The stars indicate when the people died, the trajectory for Sara and her family and friends must be beyond painful. Someone has to step in and make this stop, surely. They need to be able to grieve and let go of the pain, not be constantly poked and prodded and let down. Someone please make it stop.
Short, random post for you all. The selfie (word of the year for 2013) has been getting some schtick lately, not least because Barrack Obama decided to take one at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. There’s a whole other blog post right there, but I’ve been thinking a lot about selfies, what they represent, and whether they’re a good or a bad thing.
I hate having my photo taken, have never really been a fan. As a small child I was very shy (up until I went to secondary school, I know, I know, hard to imagine), but I was and I hated making eye contact and when I shook off my shyness I never really got past the hating having my photo taken thing. I’m fairly average in this regard I’m sure, I obviously have some highly elevated self concept of what I look like because my most frequent response to a photo, any photo is one of surprise. My internal monologue usually goes something like this:
Thought 1: Oh, oh okay, well it’s not *the* best but I suppose it could be worse
Thought 2: Ohhhh dear god, look at the chins, hair, belly rolls, bingo wings, rugby thighs* etc etc etc (*delete as appropriate depending on season, clothing, bodily state)
Thought 3: Delete, delete, delete….oh hang on X looks really nice, guess it’s not all about me.
These three thoughts usually occur in the space of a few seconds, we’re not talking deep reflection here. Occasionally there are pleasant surprises, where the light, or the photographer, or the scenery, or the healthy eating plan have all gone as they should and collided in a magic pot of brilliance. That’s rare though.
So what has this got to do with the selfie then. Well the selfie allows us take a photo, edit the light slightly, project something that we’re somewhat happier with, or at least delete the twenty images that aren’t so great and save the one that is. It is all the things that people complain about, egotistical, a projection, to some extent inaccurate, self indulgent. Yes, yes, yes. However it creates a record and it also creates somewhat more comfort in front of the lens.
I’ve become a much bigger user, and fan, of photography (and yes I sully the genre by including selfies within it) in recent years. Decent camera on my mobile has made a great difference to the number of photos I take, that and the purchase of my first proper adult camera. What I’ve realised in the last few months is that most of my selfies or pic never see the light of day, but that doesn’t stop me having them as a record, and loving them for that.
This record becomes unbelievably important when you’ve lost someone close to you. I am so grateful for the photos that I have of my Dad. He was never shy in front of a camera, we’ve hundreds of him, few serious, mostly fooling around and I love them. I’ve not got half as many of me and him as I would like, and that’s the reflection really. For all people criticise the selfie, if it allows you to capture a moment then it’s a very precious thing. One of my favourite photos that I do have of my Dad and I was taken a few months before he died, at the start of our roadtrip to Wales to visit granddaughter number two when she was a few days old. The photo is a generic, man and woman in car photo to anyone else. It’s not a perfect image of either of us, I don’t particularly like many of the elements I flag above within it, but, and it’s a big but, it captures something for me. Dad just discharged from hospital, topped up with blood following a transfusion, full of anticipation and adventure. It was a role reversal of the many, many times Dad dropped me to Wales and the last trip we took anywhere, and the reward so special.
So I implore you this Christmas, take photos, take selfies, hell take photos in the car!!! You may feel a bit self conscious, you may not like the results, you may detest what you look like in photos, but trust me it’s a great thing to be able to look back and remember, and all the flaws fade into insignificance when you can’t take any photos any more. Happy snapping.