The Goddess of Domestic Tribulations

( from the collection of essays
” Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses”
by Theodore Dalrymple, 1949 – )

( Photo by AntKi )

… I was reminded that restrain and reserve were once not confined to the upper reaches of the British aristocracy by another patient of mine… She was a seventy-five-year-old working-class woman of dignified mien, who had lived through more than one tragedy in her life. Her brother died in a submarine sunk during the war, and her sister-in-law was killed in an air raid, leaving her the task of bringing up their orphaned child. Her own husband had died comparatively young, and her first son died of a heart attack at the age of forty-two. (“He had just finished a game of football, doctor, and was in the changing rooms. He fell on the floor, and his mates thought he had slipped, and they told him to stop messing about. He just looked up at them – smiled – and he was gone.”)

The bitterest blow of all was the death of another son, recently killed in an accident in which a heavy truck, carelessly driven, crushed his car. He was fifty. She brought me his photo, her hand trembling slightly as she gave it to me. He was a successful businessman who devoted his spare time to raising money for the children’s hospital and to producing programs for its own radio station.

“It doesn’t seem right, somehow,” she said, “that he should have gone before me.”

Did she still cry?

“Yes, doctor, but only when I’m on my own. It’s not right, is it, to let anyone see you. After all, life has to go on.”

Could anyone have doubted either the depth of her feeling or of her character? Could any decent person fail to have been moved by the self-mastery she had achieved, the foundation of her dignity and her strength?…

  THE END

* * *


Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong
And carry on,
‘Cause I know I don’t belong
Here in heaven.

Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven?

I’ll find my way
Through night and day,
‘Cause I know I just can’t stay
Here in heaven.

Time can bring you down,
Time can bend your knees.
Time can break your heart,
Have you begging please, begging please.

Beyond the door,
There’s peace I’m sure,
And I know there’ll be no more
Tears in heaven.

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong
And carry on,
‘Cause I know I don’t belong
Here in heaven.

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