Strange encounters

An old woman sits on the floor in a foetal position, in a side-corridor of a public building.  In her hand she clutches a book.  It’s ‘The Peaceful Pill’ by Philip Nietschke, dubbed ‘Doctor Death‘ by the Australian media.  To anyone who approaches to ask her if she’s alright, she announces that she wants to die.

It was my job to go sit by her for twenty minutes while the local mental health team was called. At first she wanted me to go away, but eventually she began talking.  I said my mother had died a few years ago, and I gathered that hers had died recently, too.

“Yes – they wanted me to say ‘passed away’!’ she said. ‘But I don’t have to call it that, do I! She died. She’s dead.’

We talked about her mum – a sweet person who got taken advantage of a lot. A bit like mine, really.  We talked about life.  The woman said she felt as if she didn’t fit in, didn’t belong here.  She said that the world was an evil place, and there were too many bad things and bad people in it – the earthquake in Nepal, Tony Abbott, the men who recently killed four women in my city in separate domestic violence incidents. She said that her mother was all she had.

Tony Abbott – the bad guy

Then the mental health lady arrived, and knelt down, and began to speak softly to her. I left, with tears in my eyes, thinking, there but for the grace (only I don’t believe in god).  Sometimes the capacity of humans for evil astonishes me, and I know how it feels to be an alien imposter in a world full of normal.  I’d sometimes rather not be here – but I’d never suicide.

There are good people around too, I said.  ‘Look at Tim Costello, head of World Vision’.  Well Tim, I only hope you don’t beat your wife!

costello tim
Tim Costello – the good guy


  1. It sounds like you were what she needed at that moment anyway…someone who would just listen and acknowledge her and her words. And not judge.

    1. I guess it does help. The mental health lady was really sensitive and kind. She was there for hours after I left, sitting on the floor next to this woman. I hope it all ended comparatively well.

  2. How could Tony Abbott have ok’d that photo!? He’s smirking for God’s sake. This is a strange thing to have happened to you. Not to trivialise it, but it’s quite like the video for ‘Just’ by Radiohead.

    1. I don’t reckon he did ok it. Somebody just took it, somewhere, and as usual, he’s smirking! Yeah, it was a strange thing. Now I’m going to have to watch Radiohead!

      1. It’s crazy. Classic villian shot. Expert ducking of having to watch that video there. I’d do the same if someone told me to watch something. Even if the video was there and I just had to press play!

      2. Actually I did watch it. It’s pretty good! Don’t you wish you know what he said, that had everybody lying down in the end? And yeah, that is exactly what it was like!

    1. Nah, I just sat there. But yep, I hope she does find something to live for. She probably needs people who care about her and show it. I have my sisters and family and so on, I doubt she has anyone. Just her thoughts.

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