Load-shedding. Writing on and over the edge of South Africa. If Only There Was a God, by Liz McGregor
If Only There Was a God, by Liz McGregor and which is a contribute to the book Load-shedding. Writing on and over the edge of South Africa, she beginns with the circumstances and the dying of her mother in a nowady clinic in South Africa.
I don't know if this is common practice but in the ICU at the Rustenburg hospital where my mother died, the patients were kept naked under their sheets. Something about bedsores, I think one of the Tswana sisters said when I asked her. But communication was never good. We, a verbal, English-speaking family, used to asking questions and getting answers, found ourselves trapped in this moment of extreme stress between two stoic and silent cultures. The Afrikaans physician responsible for my mother's care would stride in each morning at around 8 am, wave us away from her bedside, confer briefly with the sisters and then pronounce. When pneumonia invaded my mother's lungs a few days after the operation on her broken hip, he said to my trembling, tearful father: 'Shall I intubate her or let her die?' He didn't deign to explain how low her chances of survival were anyway and that, once they had inserted the tube into her lungs, they couldn't remove it without a court order. When they stuck the tube down her throat, she gave one small heartbreaking cry and then they pumped her full of morphine and she drifted into a deep unconsciousness. And so we sat there over her comatose body for five fraught days and nights while her organs failed, one after the other. When the kidneys went, her body began to swell with accumulated fluid. Slim and lithe in life, in her dying she acquired a grotesque pulpiness. The physician, in his fleeting morning visits, began making predictions: 'She will be gone by evening.' He was always wrong. Guy, my older brother, and Liza, his wife, wanted to call in a priest to give her the last rites. My father refused. He had become increasingly averse to religion. In the early years of their marriage he had been tolerant of my mother's Catholicism but by the time the last of us had left home, she too had turned her back on it. Only Guy and Liza still kept the faith. They draped a rosary across her chest and prayed over her. My sister, Cathy, read poetry to her. I sought solace in activity. Arrangements needed to be made for when she did die. My father was in no state to deal with this and we had no friends in this benighted place to help. I found the hospital manager and asked for advice. She said she would investigate what the local funeral parlours offered and come back to us. A couple of hours later, she came into my mother's cubicle where Cathy and I sat hunched. There were two funeral parlours in Rustenburg, she said. We would need to select one and they would fetch the body from the hospital mortuary. Her English was halting. If we wanted my mother, 'What is the word, incriminated?' We stared at her, dumb with horror that she would discuss this in front of my mother. 'Yes, incriminated,' she said, taking our silence as acquiescence. 'If you want her incriminated, these are the prices.' (...)
If Only There Was a God is an extract from the book Load-shedding. Writing on and over the edge of South Africa, by Sarah Nuttall and Liz McGregor.
Book title: Load-shedding. Writing on and over the edge of South Africa
Editors: Sarah Nuttall; Liz McGregor
Publisher: Jonathan Ball
Cape Town, South Africa 2009
ISBN 9781868423231 / ISBN 978-1-86842-323-1
Softcover, 13x20 cm, 248 pages
Nuttall, Sarah und McGregor, Liz im Namibiana-Buchangebot
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Load-shedding: Writing on and over the edge of South Africa is a collection of non-fiction stories from South Africa’s pre-eminent authors, journalists and commentators.