Thursday, March 26, 2009


After one of our visits to see my sister in hospital we went for a drink afterwards with my eldest sister and her husband. We bypassed the usual haunts – the Wheatsheaf and the Royal Oak – and opted instead for the Ex-Serviceman Club. I have never been an ex-serviceman, but they didn’t hold that against me.

I can’t remember the last time I was there. It may have been some cabaret night or other, and I think I can remember my youngest sister entertaining everyone with a display of head-banging and air guitar stuff! That was a long time ago!

This time we were there this time to see the tail end of the Scotland v England rugby match and watch the opening few minutes of the Wales v Ireland match.

I was standing beside the bar, minding my own business when I nearly got slapped by someone. The nearly-slapper was a lady that I didn’t know, but who had mistaken me for my sister and was offended that I had not greeted her, and had my back turned towards her. I am not sure whether it was me turning around at the same time as her spotting my sister standing beside me that made her stop mid-slap, but I escaped unscathed and she escaped unembarrassed by perhaps hitting what would have been for her a complete stranger!

This getting mistaken for my eldest sister has been part and parcel of life. When I used to visit more often, before I lived in Scotland, I gave up trying to explain that I wasn’t her. I just nodded politely and agreed with her that my kids were growing up and our garden was looking lovely that year.

I cannot see what everyone else sees. I am taller, slimmer and far prettier than my sister. My hair is not the same colour or style and I wear glasses! What is it that they see? People, when we are together, usually assume we are twins!

Although I definitely don’t have a twin sister, my husband often tells me that living with me is like living with two different women. There is “work Mel” and there is “holiday Mel” and they are very different people. Come the holiday, I seem to shed the “work Mel” persona completely. Do I smile more? Sing louder? Laugh more? Actually do the washing up instead of just saying I will do it? “Holiday Mel” is certainly easier to live with, apparently!

I was thinking about my dual personality. I think there are two more hidden in there – or perhaps the same two but going by different names. There is “Faith Mel” and there is “Doubt Mel”. I have seen a lot of “Doubt Mel” over the last couple of weeks. Despite clear words of encouragement I have tended to focus on the very visible signs of the seriousness of my sister’s illness. I have looked at the monitors and the drips, looked at her pale sleeping head, and bruises on her hands where other drips have been, and on all the tubes, and the ventilator – and wondered if she would really pull through. “Faith Mel” doesn’t think like that. Faith Mel sees it all and then over the top of it all overlays God’s encouraging words and doesn’t think about funerals.

A friend said yesterday that sometimes it is harder to watch someone going through the hard times. If we are the people going through it, we tend to exhibit more faith and more expectation of a positive resolution.

The dictionary defines integrity as “the quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.” I will aim to be whole and undivided – for there to be just the one Mel – presenting a consistent “Faith Mel” picture no matter what the circumstances are that I face.

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