The twelfth Station: Pain

Saturday, 5 December, 2015

There’s a difference between pain and pains, and it’s not just between singular and plural. My mother rarely spoke about pain, but she was an authority on pains. Or, as she called them, “the pains.”

The great hands

These “pains” were the result of life-long physical labour in spring, summer, autumn and winter in all kinds of weather. From childhood, she had fed calves, milked cows, cleaned outhouses, planted potatoes, saved hay, washed clothes, baked bread, plucked turkeys, made puddings, polished floors, painted doors, cleaned churns, planted shrubs, lit fires, cooked dinners, cut hedges, picked berries, darned socks, knit cardigan and trimmed hair. And that’s the shortened version of the list. The result was rheumatism, arthritis and a bad back but this was the price she was willing to pay so that so that others would benefit from her work and compassion.

As regards pain, she dealt with it by praying. Hail, holy Queen was one of her favourites because it offered comfort: “Mother of mercy, to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.” It’s not romantic; it’s unsentimental, just like pain.

Our next station in this series of meditations on 14 photographs is Love.

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