My Silent Companion by Marilyn Eales
Marilyn Eales is a retired Medical Laboratory Scientist. She lives in Auckland and enjoys a daily swim at a local beach. In 2010 she attended “ Life Writing” and “ More Life Writing” where she discovered a freedom to express herself in writing stories and memoirs. Prior to this her only writing had been correspondence to family and friends from developing countries in which she lived and worked.
We hardly ever spoke yet I saw her every day for at least seven years. She was in her eighties. We would both arrive at the bathing shed every morning about 8am Winter and Summer, change into our bathing costumes and head off in different directions. Later she would return to the bathing shed, briskly nod and then disappear as quickly as she had arrived on the scene.
In rough weather it was always a comfort to know she was there splashing about in the sea just as I was. There was a bond between us but one unspoken. I had not realised how close this bond was until one day, after a very stormy night I heard on the 7am news bulletin on National Radio that a body had been washed up on our beach. I hoped and prayed that it was not my companion swimmer.
Much to my relief three days later she appeared for her usual morning swim. With a broad smile she looked at me and said, ”I’m so pleased to see you”. The bond between us was further cemented although we continued in our old way and rarely spoke.
Three years later, when she was eighty seven years old and had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, she was unable to swim without assistance. And so for the last five weeks of her life I was privileged to assist her into the water. Observers of this ritual queried why I bothered with that dying woman. “She’s not dying” was my defensive reply “she is living”.
After her death I discovered she had three university degrees (the last conferred on her when she was in her 84th year) and that she had worked as an accountant in a legal firm until a few months before she died. I shall never forget her. Sometimes I wonder about the rich conversations we might have had if only we had taken the time to do so --- but then, our unspoken bond, expressed through our concern, watching out and caring for each other in all weathers, may not have been the same.
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