Bella was just four years old when she developed severe pain in her tummy. The doctor was called to the house and she never liked him from the moment she met him. His dark brown hard leather doctor suitcase with all these sharp tools and needles didn’t appeal to her delicate nature. He wore glasses with strings attached to them which she found very amusing. His hair was white around his ears and bald at the top. He felt distant and had a stare in his eye. She knew after he examined her with his ice-cold stethoscope that things didn’t look good from the tone of conversation with her mother. So, Bella hid under the table. She could feel the stares from his eyes and her mothers’ envelop her in fear and before she knew it, she was in the local hospital being prepped for an operation. She had a burst appendicitis which was caught too late and developed an infection in the lining of her stomach which caused complication in the operation and for sure in the healing afterwards.
She didn’t like this place. They called it hospital. She was in a room with lots of beds and other children who came, got better, went home, next child came, got better, went home and on and on. She stayed. She was in the second bed inside the door on the left. She didn’t remember any other children except for the girl who was there before her and after her in the bed opposite her. She too stayed in her bed all day. Nuns with their heads covered in material roamed the corridors. Doctors came every morning and Bella dreaded the way they would touch and poke her sore tummy. The nurses were rough and drained the ooze from the scar that she now had on her right side. She hated that scar. She couldn’t look at it; it was sore to touch and felt like a part of her being was stripped open and leaked. Only one nurse, Teresa, had a kind face and never ever caused her pain. Teresa always went out of her way to check up on Bella even though she didn’t work in that room much. She wore a lovely smile that made Bella feel calm and peaceful. Bella lost interest in getting better. The doctors were in panic mode each morning she was inspected. The nurses were disgusted as they physically displayed it on their faces when changing her dressing. Bella didn’t get out of the bed. She didn’t eat. She had no appetite for food or life. The medical people all around her had no hope for her and she knew it.
Bella’s mother was a strong character and tough woman. She also had a small baby at home to care for however Bella can only remember her mother visiting maybe twice or three times in the space of the three weeks she spent in hospital. When her mother came to visit, Bella’s feelings of joy were quickly replaced with sadness, upset even anger when she had the strength to display them. Bella received so many gifts from people who visited her but her mother gave most of the gifts away when she would come to visit. Her mother liked the glory of being the hero in other peoples’ lives by giving them things to make them feel better. The girl in the bed opposite Bella was the recipient of much of Bella’s gifts hence why Bella could never warm to this girl. Her mother would blast through Bella’s bedside locker to see what gifts she had amased since her last visit and would quickly distribute to the sick children who deserved them and who were worthy of them.
Bella had no interest in material things however two items clutched at her heart strings and she bawled when they were removed. One was a large white mouse soft toy with a red dress that her aunty brought her on her visit. Her aunty was full of fun and she loved the mouse voice she put on when introducing the soft toy to her so after protesting Bella got to keep the mouse. The other item was a tiny red boot, no more than 4cm in length. As this was December, Christmas was fast approaching so this beautiful little boot was magic and felt like Santa’s boot. It was made from felt on the outside, had a little gold string that could hang on a Christmas tree and had a white foam moulding on the inside. Inside the mould stood the tiniest little bottle of perfume Bella had ever seen. It was beautiful, magic, precious and it was hers. The day the boot was transferred to the girl in the bed across from Bella was a dark grey sad day. Bella found her angry tears and her angry voice that day to demand her perfume back. It somehow made its way back across the room and safe under Bella’s pillow. Bella’s feeling of not being worthy of all these gifts and not deserving them regardless of how ill she actually was became ingrained in her skull for many years.
Bella’s daddy was a strong intelligent man. Bella always loved to please him. He exuded compassion and kindness. He was a farmer and oh so much more. He was her soft maternal figure and she trusted him with her life. Every single evening after he had spent the day farming and had his cows milked, he would get out the electric razor, shave his face, put on his clean clothes topped off with his brown knitted cardigan with suede patched on the shoulders and big brown buttons. He would make his way to Bella’s bedside and sit with her for what felt like the happiest hours of her life. They would talk, sit in blissful silence, play, laugh, say their prayers together. Bella did not eat any hospital food for it all looked, smelled and felt like goop. Her appetite was non existent also. However, every night when her daddy came, he would reach into the bedside locker and produce a gold round shaped box with a translucent top. Bella’s eyes would light up and her taste buds salivate for the first time that day. Inside the box were segments of orange and lemon sugar jellies neatly arranged in the circle. Her daddy would take out one and place the top carefully back on the box. He would place that jelly in his mouth and slowly very slowly lovingly suck the sugar from the jelly. When the eternity was over, he would gently place the jelly on Bella’s tongue and let her enjoy her only morsel of food that day. The sugar tasted too strong for Bella however the presentation and the colours appealed so much that her daddy found a way for her to enjoy this one little sweet each night before going to sleep. It was the highlight of her day by far. Then her daddy would neatly place his brown cardigan with the big brown buttons over the back of the chair he had been sitting in and say he was going to visit a friend who was sick in another room and would be back to her afterwards. Every night he placed his cardigan on the back of the chair, every night he visited his friend, every night Bella slept peacefully.
The fear and terror that ensued during the day only added to the lack of recovery and Bella grew weaker with each passing day. One day, she was running a high fever and was hurriedly stripped to her little knickers, lifted to the empty bed to her right and placed on top of the sheets with a fan of cold air blowing from the bottom of the bed. She felt so weak, vulnerable, alone and out of her comfort zone of bed number two. As if by magic, her favourite person in the whole world came thundering in the door; her grandad. He was tall and big and loud and full of fun and mischief. She would spend every weekend with her Nana and Grandad and would spend most of the days with him outside on the farm, on drives to the creamery with the milk, stopping off in the local pubs, buying toffees in the local shop. He was vivacious, he was big and he was angry that his precious first grandchild was left to die on this lonely cold bed. So, he called the cavalry in, he made a big scene, he was so funny with all the doctors and nuns scurrying around him complying to his commands. He made her smile the biggest when he threw his overcoat which smelt of him, of cows, of pubs, of food, of love over Bella in the bed to preserve her modesty. The racket continued and it was a sight to behold. He was in full swing, he had all the professionals bowing to him, afraid of him, he was so loud. He just looked like he normally did when he was outside in a field herding cows; loud, arms all over the place, pretending to scare them, loving it really. Oh, how her heart swelled with love for him as she watched the show unfold. He wrapped her up in his strong arms swaddled in his overcoat and told her that she was going to get better and they were going have an x-ray done. In that moment, Bella believed him. Bella believed that she was already better – heck she was smiling from ear to ear something she had forgotten how good it felt! He stayed with Bella in the x-ray room and made funny monkey noises as there was a poster of a monkey on the wall. He didn’t care what the doctors thought of his antics; he was there to make sure Bella got better. He was not letting his little angel die in that place, no way. From that moment onwards, Bella got stronger every day. She wanted to get out. She wanted to get home. She wanted to leave the weak little girl behind. On Christmas Eve 1980, Bella left the hospital to the joy of her family and was welcomed home with a tiny saucer of mashed potatoes waiting for her, of which she managed to eat a few bites.
Her granddad was her legend, a true superhero, unapologetic in his public display of the power of unconditional love and afraid of no one or nothing.
Her daddy was her constant, her inspiration, her trust buddy, her calm.
Her mother was her turmoil for many years and food became the means of showing love. Bella would develop an eating disorder in her teenage years only to hurt her mother. All was revealed in a previous life when Bella and her mother lived together during the Famine times in Ireland. Bella was the child that her mother witnessed starve and eventually die from starvation in those times. Bella’s mother made a commitment on her daughter’s death bed to never let her die again from starvation and thus this time around food became her language of showing love. It is always interesting when we go back to understand more of the jigsaw. Bella and her mother grew from their pain and while they did not always understand the other, the unconditional love meshed them together just beautifully.
It would take another three decades for Bella to say out loud in her darkest moments ‘I deserve better’ and even still for her to say out louder some more years later; ‘I deserve the best’.
Bella decided in her cold dark hospital bed that she never wanted her children ever to spend a moment in hospital on their own. Over thirty years later Bella found her little baby boy aged three severely ill in hospital and she never left his side, day or night. She broke the cycle. In that hospital, she had another epiphany which will fill more words on more pages.
Bella’s hospital experiences were many as she got older and became the grounding on which she learned what didn’t work, what didn’t help people get better. It would be much later before she would discover her gifts as a healer to help herself heal firstly and then others.
Forty years later and Bella’s scar is still very visible however she now wears it as a thriver badge. She has learned to accept and love her scar.
Bella had to learn all this to become the butterfly she became because butterflies don’t just happen you know!