Any account of my stay in the hospital would not be complete without relating my encounter with a saint. Paddy managed to get the worst bed in the room; next to Vinny on the one side and a broken radiator on the other. He had rented a television and his son had brought him in a mobile telephone – neither of which he knew how to work. He had been brought into hospital at the same time that his wife had been brought in, and due to the flu lockdown they could not see one another. He had all the makings of a wee lost soul, but he was anything but a lost soul. Paddy was a saint of God or an angel or something. I’m sure of it. Vinny would be on his own phone organising drug deals with his girlfriend and speaking to her like dirt, and Paddy would always take the time to talk him down and encourage him to respect the women in his life. He exuded a patient tranquillity that brought peace to the room and inspired in all of us hope and a sense of trust. We all thought that he spoke in his sleep. I listened carefully one night and realised he was awake. Paddy was talking to God about us.

His care for the other men in the ward was every bit as medicinal as the care the doctors and nurses were giving us. Each one of us faced our own fears on our beds. Some were treading on the edges of the valley of the shadow of death; others were facing long term illnesses. I had discovered that without private health insurance or a medical card I faced the prospect of six months in the cancer hospital ‘recuperating.’ Our spirits were bending in the wind. Like a father, like someone who knew the hidden depths of all mysteries and the meaning of suffering, Paddy daily addressed our fears.

Not one of his orations was meandering or silly. He had a wonderful knack of grasping the complexities of our lives and our situations, generalising them and speaking right into them and through them. Hanging on his words, we all knew that he cared about us and truly believed the words he was speaking. At almost eighty years old he spoke from a rich and long experience of life. He hadn’t ever been a by-stander, but shared with us the lessons of a man who had lived a good life well.


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