Tuesday, 7 May 2013

a matter of life and death

Last week, I felt I'd reached something of a milestone in what I'll call my PhD career.  This week that milestone is forgotten and the future trajectory obscured by life events.  I'm reminded all too abruptly of how studying as a mature student and perhaps particularly as a female mature student, is vulnerable to disruption by events beyond your control.  My elderly mother had a(nother) fall and though not seriously hurt, has simply failed to recover.  This week - and the Bank Holiday weekend - has been dominated by encouraging a reluctant elderly person to eat/get up/dress/bathe, ensuring they take medication on time and daily, weighing up their additional care needs, whether further medical attention is required.  The physical, mental and emotional energy this demands makes starting on what feels like a new phase (writing my Lit Review chapter, planning methodology) impossible for the time being. 
And then today, in piercing sunshine, softened by glorious blossom, I attend the burial of my ex-colleague who has died of cancer in her mid-forties, a year younger than me.  She is buried in a wicker coffin, beneath a graceful stand of trees in South Bristol Cemetery.  Saying farewell to her feels like an invitation to make the most of now, a glib phrase most days, but not today. 
In between the death of a quirky middle-aged woman who died with dignity and the life of an admirably stubborn elderly woman clinging on to life, my PhD seems at once insignificant - and so much more.

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