She’s only three. She hands you a picture, pride, joy and excitement in her eyes. “It’s for you, Mummy. I did it in playgroup.”
You see the colours arranged on the page. Some lines in it somewhere. “That’s beautiful, thank you, so much!” A big hug. You daren’t ask what it is. It should be obvious. You wait. Eventually, “That’s our house, and that’s my puppy (when can I have a puppy?), and that’s a polar bear, and…”
It may not look like that to everyone else, but it’s lovely. It goes on the fridge, or gets tacked to the side of a bookshelf. It may even find it’s way into a frame and become a family treasure.
Families and friends. Mostly they are around, near or far, and we dip into each others lives when we can, when we wish, or when we must. When illness refocuses our priorities, we may see each other anew, clearer parts of the picture, if not actually in our true colours, then something a bit more evident.
We’re all in the picture, somewhere.
Two good friends visited us in the hospital, wanting to be there for us, “…and not just as decoration.” The man proudly handed over a home-made cake. His wife suggested, mischievously, “Ask him why he baked it.” Rumbled. “Yes, well, I saw the oven was on and didn’t know there was anything in it. I turned it off. So I thought I’d better bake another.” It was a good cake, all the better served with love and good humour.
Friends who look after siblings at a moment’s notice. (“My parents abandoned me,” she smiles, with cheeky tones, “but they had a better shower than ours so it was OK!”)
The practical ones, those who look after the cat, bring the food, look out for the carers, keep the right news circulating. Make sure the bank account doesn’t run dry with unexpected expense. Solid. Dependable.
Those who hate hospitals and sickness and everything to do with them and would run a mile from it all given the choice, but show up anyway, sitting hard on their own fears, as long as they can, for the sake of another.
The whacky ones wafting into a ward or post-hospital lives causing a mixture of embarrassment and humour, caution and wonder.
The poets and artists, digging deep into images and connections and bringing smiles with a simple hand-made card, a photograph, a small gift of thought and beauty. Philosophers, with alternative frameworks and different perspectives.
Those who travel, hours and miles, to give time and company for as long as they can.
Those who dip in and out, juggling demands of home, family, employment, and still find space to include you.
Those too young to understand or too elderly or vulnerable to take it all in but give their gentle hugs anyway.
Those who plead your case in the highest divine courts they have in their toolkit of beliefs, pounding the doors, demanding attention and the best results. Others with no words who simply light a candle on their mantelpiece and keep you in heart and mind.
Those who stay the course, long after the first plunge into hospital care, through many more operations, procedures and hospital visits, loyal and untiring, knowing organ donation isn’t simply a cure…. “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”
Those who… you fill in the gaps with the ones you know, or the one you think you are…
In the universe of organ donation, there is another family we may never know anything about. They are often, sort of, on the other side of the paper. As their own story becomes their worst nightmare, their yes to organ donation answers the dearest wish of another. However unseen, they will always be part of the picture, as essential as the paper and the paint.
Living donors may be in full view, shaping the painting in equally permanent ways.
We’re all in the picture somewhere, colours blending or clashing, hardly ever fitting neatly between the lines. Messy? Yes, probably. And some colours may come to mind because they are missing.
It’s given with love’s intentions. We do our best in the only ways we can.
So we’ll receive it with hugs, stick it to the fridge with the magnet we found on holiday, or frame it, hang it in pride of place and treasure it for ever. Family and friends, this one’s for you. Thank you… (Oh yes, and Happy New Year!)