I can’t remember my source, Mary Lou, but the numbers make me confident. Lent is based on the 40 days Our Lord spent fasting in the wilderness – and yet it seems to be six and a half weeks long, until you subtract the six Sundays. That subtraction leaves you, very neatly, with 40 days.
The Greeks, I believe, start tomorrow – at least, they do if our Easters coincide this year. By that reckoning, Lent ends on Maundy Thursday and the following tridium – Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday – is in a category by itself.
I am sure you are right, Shandy, that C. needs distraction from the fear of death. I wonder if the fear is worse because she is not in pain. Toothache does concentrate the mind on itself.
Would one be able to knit? I hope so, but I find it impossible to imagine myself in C.’s situation, although it awaits me, in some form or other, in the relatively near future (I will soon be 78). I hope some of you know my favourite episode of Frasier, where all the characters – including Ros, whose excuse for being there I have forgotten – sit about Frasier’s apartment talking of death.
The only line I can actually remember is when Niles expresses his fear that death may turn out to be like school, and none of the really cool dead people will want to hang out with him. The brilliance of the scene, however, is that it brings briefly to the surface something that we all think about quite a bit but rarely mention.
At the end there is a “ping” from the kitchen and Daphne remembers that she has some cookies in the oven. Everybody has some, dipped in milk. I suspect it’s the only answer.
I would hope to be able to knit (socks, which have completely relieved me of the fear of flying in recent years); and to welcome Radio Four wittering on even if I couldn’t concentrate on what they were saying; and, if not to read coherently, at least to read a paragraph or two in a well-loved book and then lie back and think about it. Pride and Prejudice, The Leopard, Middlemarch, Put Out More Flags. The Leopard, I think, above all.
That’s a lot to ask for.
But here’s an encouraging anecdote. I must, alas, suppress names – your comment yesterday, Wren, demonstrates why. You never know who’s listening, and I don’t want to hurt anybody's feelings.
We had a friend – most of us could replicate the story – who got breast cancer, got treated, had several years of remission, got it again, died. During the final phase she was visited one evening by a good friend who is a well-known novelist and who gave her the latest book. When they were alone, she complained furiously to her husband (who relayed the tale to me in a letter not long after she died): “I’ve got six months to live and I haven’t finished Henry James. How can D. think that I’ve got time to read his book?”