Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Language and Bearing One's Sufferings

I'm reading Memento Mori by Muriel Spark, and here are two good passages contained therein:
There were twelve occupants of the Maud Long Medical Ward (aged people, female). The ward sister called them the Baker's Dozen, not knowing that this is thirteen, but having only heard the phrase; and thus it is that a good many old sayings lose their force.

A year ago, when Miss Taylor had been admitted to the ward, she had suffered misery when addressed as Granny Taylor, and she thought she would rather die in a ditch than be kept alive under such conditions. But she was a woman practised in restraint; she never displayed her resentment. The lacerating familiarity of the nurses' treatment merged in with her arthritis, and she bore them both as long as she could without complaint. Then she was forced to cry out with pain during a long haunted night when the dim ward lamp made the beds into grey-white lumps like terrible bundles of laundry which muttered and snored occasionally. A nurse brought her an injection. 
"You'll be better now, Granny Taylor." 
"Thank you, nurse." 
"Turn over, Granny, that's a good girl." 
"Very well, nurse." 
The arthritic pain subsided, leaving the pain of desolate humiliation, so that she wished rather to endure the physical nagging again. 
After the first year she resolved to make her suffering a voluntary affair. If this is God's will, then it is mine. She gained from this state of mind a decided and visible dignity, at the same time as she lost her stoical resistance to pain. She complained more, called often for the bed pan, and did not hesitate, on one occasion when the nurse was dilatory, to wet the bed as the other grannies did so frequently.

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