It’s very sad.  The sister of a friend of mine is very ill with fast advancing cancer of an area of her brain.  In the space of a few weeks, she has lost her hearing, the sight in one eye and finds moving about difficult.  She is petrified of not being able to communicate at all.  Even now all communication has to be reduced to writing, though she can speak in reply.  She’s undergoing intensive courses of chemotherapy, back to back, to try to arrest the cancer and its symptoms.

Nothing like as serious.  Almost blasphemous to mention it in the same post, but I’ve been reflecting on email communication.  Sometimes it feels as if it brings us much closer to people than would ever have been possible before.  Emails ping backwards and forwards faster than letters could ever fly.  Often there is a tendency to write as we would speak, as our typing fingers keep up with the thoughts of our brains as our scratchy pens never could.

But is it really so great, if that is all there is that joins one person to another, if it is never supplemented by phone calls, or by Skype, or by real letters and occasional visits?

Isn’t it then rather like lying immobile in a hospital bed, being profoundly deaf and able to see out of only one eye, and having to wait passively for people to type messages and hold them in front of your single eye?

How starved is such communication.  How poorly is compares to the full and rich exchange of feelings and thoughts that the best face to face communication can provide, illuminated by hugs and touching and smiles shot from the eyes.

It’s great if you have a committed correspondent, but how frustrating if your correspondent cannot find the time to come and visit, or is too busy, or does not want to write or is to sad or angry or lazy.  How frustrating then, to be pinned in your hospital bed, not able to do anything about it except respond to the very intermittent reinforcement.

I do not want to depend on correspondence that hangs only in the ether, but I insist on using all our God-given senses as he intended us to.  For me there is an ever present danger that the correspondence begins to feel too horribly familiar – to ape the anxious attachments of my childhood, when I was too young and too powerless to ask for more from my parents.

[the hospital bed is a cot … and the door is closed and nobody comes, however much I cry, because the four hours is not up yet …]

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