Friday, 30 December 2011

Sally and Joe

Earlier this year an old lady moved into the home where I work for five days respite. Normally she was cared for at home by her husband Joe but he had to go into hospital for something very minor so Sally came to us.
She spent most of the time crying, and begging to be allowed to go home to 'my Joe'. It was really quite pitiful and I'm ashamed to say that my severely limited supply of compassion quickly depleted. Sally never knew this of course; nor did my colleagues - I am such an accomplished actress that even my most despised enemies go around believing I am their bosom buddy. But don't hate me for it - I get by how I can :(
Sally left after five days but she appeared again on December 17.... Joe had broken his ankle and was in hospital. Whilst he was there the doctors discovered he was riddled with cancer and had just a matter of days to live. Sally understood that Joe was very ill and that he didn't only have a broken ankle. And although it's not a hospice where I work Mac, our manager and Nadine, the matron pulled out all the stops to get Joe admitted to our place for his final few days. When the paramedics brought Joe into the room we'd prepared, next to Sally's, I couldn't believe that this wizened little old man had been caring for anybody all on his own, let alone Sally. She's not big, just a regular-sized pensioner but he seemed more dead than alive. Sally was in the lounge when Joe arrived last Wednesday afternoon, watching a special showing I'd laid on of 'White Christmas' so she didn't realise that he was there and I, in my wisdom, decided to let her watch the end of the movie, even though I knew I was going home before it ended.

You think you know what I'm going to say next, don't you?
You'd be wrong.

Joe survived until 7.30 the next morning. He and Sally had their reunion and she told me afterwards that he gave the biggest smile when he saw her face 'and he was my old Joe again'. Even though we hardly know Sally and we didn't know Joe at all we were all gutted for them...but happy too, in a melancholy way. Sally and Joe met when they were eight years old in the church choir. They liked each other then and always went back to each other. He was a joiner who provided for Sally and although they had no children of their own they were much-loved aunt and uncle to lots of nephews and nieces. Sally is sad but she knows he isn't in any more pain and she is thankful for all the years they had together. When she cries she says 'I'm so sorry, I know I shouldn't be doing this'. She is dignified in her distress because she says that 'Joe wouldn't want me to carry on like this. He'd say "Buck up Sally"'. I tell her that Joe hung on so he could see the face that was so precious to him one more time, and then he was able to go.

How lucky is Sally, that she's had that kind of love in her life? And how brave?

PS Because I detest New Year's Eve so much I have nobly volunteered to work a night shift tomorrow. If you go out please be careful! Love and luck to you all in 2012!


  1. Oh man these tales of the oldies are something else.... I don't know how you do your job. Apart from the heartache you see and endure, how much patience must you take with you to work every day?

    I hope 2012 puts you well on the way to really pulling it off.

  2. What a beautiful story what a lucky couple they were coz that type of love is so rare.Wouldnt it be nice to see a young pic of them both?

  3. Oh what a heartfelt tale - Sally was very lucky to have that love in her life, true soul mates. Wishing you an amazing 2012. I dont do new years either so glad ive got my little boy to use as an excuse for not doing anything :o) Scarlett x

  4. What a beautiful story of love

  5. how nice and sad at the same time. I just wish that some people could just drift off together and then one of them wont be left on their own.

  6. What a sweet story, and how wonderful that their love had endured so much.

    Best wishes for 2012 my lovely. Take care. xx

  7. How sweet - true love. RIP Joe.
    Enjoy your shift, I cannot stand New year's eve either. I must get a job for next year.

    I really hope you have some great times in 2012,

    Lucy x

  8. How beautiful Sally and Joe's love for each other is (I say "is" because though Joe is gone Sally's love for him goes on.) You must find things like this terribly hard, though I suppose in their way also uplifting. It is so good to hear of a care home pulling out all the stops like this and showing real compassion for fellow human beings. Your story is really uplifting despite the sadness. I don't do "New Year" either (hate it!) but sincerely hope that you and yours have a happy and prosperous 2012. xxx

  9. What a poignant story. Thanks for sharing it.

    I used to work in a nursing home and saw many many melancholy, sad souls at the end of their days. Having a soul mate like that is truly a gift in life.

  10. Lovely story and how great that through the thoughtfulness of the staff, they were able to spend some precious time together.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  11. How wonderful that everyone put together such a plan for Sally and Joe to be together like that at the end of Joe's life.
    Happy new year.
    Lisa x

  12. Another New Year hater here - I just ignore it and watch something nice on TV or an old film then its gone before you know it.

    Its lovely to hear such a touching story from a care home after all the bad press they have had this year. I know the bad ones get all the publicity and there are many hundreds of good homes in this country.

  13. A touching story and a triumph of compassion over rules and regulations.. Hope your 2012 is wonderful.

  14. lovely story keshling - thanks for sharing it!
    Hope your double shift was ok - and wishing you lots of happy times ahead in 2012 (I hate NYE too)
    fee x

  15. I have encountered a couple of similar stories like this over Christmas. It has made me wonder how old people endure such sadness when they are so very frail. xxxxx

  16. Thank you SO much for this heart-rending post. I was with both my parents when they passed away, and I believe it matters SO MUCH not to be alone, even if someone is not conscious. Thank you for the job you do - even on the days you don't feel like doing it, or when other people are being rotten. Thank you, thank you, thank you. X


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