There but for fortune by Angela Caldin
There are so many dreadful images of the death and destruction in Ukraine that it’s possible to become immune to the horror they show. Another bombed apartment block with people’s ruined belongings exposed; another street littered with debris with people picking their way over the wreckage hoping to salvage something, anything; another wounded child helped by strong hands out of the mess that once was their home.
There’s one image that has stayed in my mind since I saw it a couple of days ago. It’s the photo of an elderly woman being carried by two men out of her shattered apartment building. They have made a seat for her with their arms and she sits upright, her arms around their necks. She isn’t crying, she’s looking straight ahead, the chaos of her apartment building behind her. I was struck by her stoical expression, wondering what the future held for her. Where would she go? Did she have family? Where would she find food and shelter? How much more could old people like her bear?
Cut to yesterday morning and a church hall where my husband, who has Alzheimer’s, attends a social group organised by the Selwyn foundation. A number of elderly people were taking part in various activities: some were playing Rummicub while others were coming to grips with Three Crowns or attempting a quiz; some were playing Kiwipong which involves bouncing ping pong balls into paper cups. The last group, which included my husband, were sitting round a sort of tennis net batting a red balloon at each other over the net. What was evident was that they were really enjoying themselves; there was no scoring, just genuine delight in getting the balloon over the net, laughing when it went up too high or hit someone gently on the head. My husband’s face was full of merriment, completely at odds with his usual reluctance to join in.
I’m not sure what I’m groping towards here, except the realisation that happiness can occur when you least expect it and we need to treasure it. We are lucky here; we have so many advantages, so many facilities for the elderly, so many opportunities to make life more tolerable. I thought again about the kind of life that awaited that old woman in Kyiv and I gave thanks for the kind of life I have, fragile though it may be.