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My Mum died yesterday morning after suffering a series of strokes a few months ago. I had been in Manchester to see her and say goodbye whilst she was in hospital as we had been told on three separate occasions that she was about to 'go'. But each time she perked up and continued to fight a little while longer. But then last week she was moved to a hospice. They called me on Monday to say that she had been given the last rites from a local priest. So I came to Manchester once again. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was confronted with when I got here. I didn't think she could get any worse than how she had been/looked whilst in the hospital, but over the past few weeks she had deteriorated to such an extent that there was little left of her. I walked into her room at the hospice on Monday to see a woman who couldn't have weighed more than 3 or 4 stone - she was nothing more than a skeleton with a thin layer of skin. She was 63, yet she easily looked 93! She was also gone mentally, her eyes fixed on one spot. All that happened was that she still breathed - and even that was laborious. It has made me much more sympathetic to the whole issue of euthenasia.
I already know what poem I want to read out for her at her funeral, which will probably be held next week. It is Arthur Hugh Clough's Say Not the Struggle Nought Availeth. It is a poem which I sought hard to find and knew as soon as I read it that it was the right one for her. A life in battle and struggle but then, by the last line, just hoping a glimmer of hope will fulfill its promise. Whilst the poem was decided on I thought I'd better also check out the poet himself as I'd hate to read out a poem by someone who hated women or something and after reading a small part of his life the feeling that the poem was just right was confirmed. He died young, he made vocal his many doubts about religion and, because he was in love with Florence Nightingale's cousin, he came to care deeply and campaign for change in nursing and medical conditions of the time.

Say Not The Struggle Nought Availeth
Arthur Hugh Clough


Say not the struggle nought availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not nor faileth,
And as things have been, things remain;
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal’d,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers—
And, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves vainly breaking
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look! the land is bright.

Online text © 1998-2008 Poetry

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***


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