Sun, Jun 21, 2009 at 3:28 PM
From Carla, Cheshire, UK.
The Invisible Fly
One of the elderly ladies in the care home where I was working was dying.
She had her two middle-aged daughters with her. I saw them through the open door of her room each time I went by, busy with my usual routine. The dying lady was propped up on pillows and although very weak, was conscious and apparently without pain.
About the fifth time I passed, I saw one of the daughters wave towards me, seeming to beckon me. I went in to ask how I could help.
‘Oh no, dear, thank you but I wasn’t waving to you, I was brushing this fly away! Big, dirty, nasty thing!’
The other daughter added, ‘We’ve been trying to get rid of it, but my mother says to leave it alone – she says it’s her pet!’
I looked curiously at the dying lady, and at her kindly but slightly exasperated daughters, who were still waving their hands around in front of her face.
Two things struck me. One was that the lady was grinning, feebly but unmistakably. The other was that there was no fly. Where the little family saw a huge buzzing bluebottle, I saw nothing.
All I could do was assure the family that the moment they needed any help at all, we’d be there, and perhaps a nice cup of tea was in order…
The lady died peacefully later that day and I never heard anyone else mention the fly.
Since then, I’ve read that some cultures believe that flies must be kept away from the dying as the devil sends a fly to collect the souls of the damned.
Although this family were about as white, middle-class and English as they could possibly be, I still wonder why they could see that fly when I couldn’t, and how a dying woman could grin and call it her pet.