A glance, an incline of the head would do. A slight acknowledgement of his existence, would have made all the difference. Ivor’s wife is in the final stages of cancer through misdiagnosis by the State’s Health system. His children are at home, savouring every moment left to them with their beloved mother. He travelled alone to the court hearing to hear the Health Service’s apology to him and his family for their part in the indescribable grief inflicted on them.
At the end of his wretched journey to the State’s capital, he sat alone in the court. The judge and his registar sat on their elevated seats, the barristers sat facing the judge, busy solicitors concentrated on their papers or scrolled their phone screens.
The barrister adressed the court, bewigged and shrouded in a black cloak. ‘My client regrets the pain and suffering inflicted on the family. They wish to make a full and formal apology’ . His well- educated tones carried well in the courtroom. Then it was over.
They folded their files and left. Was that for me ? for my family ? Ivor thought. Is this what I travelled here for? To watch a costumed functionary deliver a form of words to a judge? Bewildered, he gathered his coat and made his way back to his car and retraced his steps homeward.
Later he got to tell his tale on national radio. How many others have gone through this dehumanising experience of being utterly ignored by a person so hardened to human suffering that to look you in the eye as you apologised would seem like a form of weakness? Regretably, this form of callousness is fostered and admired among the legal world. ‘Professionalism’ its called by some. But surely, part of professionalism is compassion.
Oscar Wilde, in ‘De Profundis’, describes how a man lifted his hat to him as he walked handcuffed between two policemen in to the bankruptcy court. ‘Men have gone to heaven for smaller things than that,’ is how he described this small gesture of humanity. He wrote heartwrenchingly about the depths of despair he suffered while in jail.;
‘ Prosperity, pleasure and success, may be rough of grain and common in fibre, but sorrow is the most sensitive of all created things. There is nothing that stirs in the whole world of thought to which sorrow does not vibrate in terrible and exquisite pulsation. The thin beaten-out leaf of tremulous gold that chronicles the direction of forces the eye cannot see is in comparison coarse. It is a wound that bleeds when any hand but that of love touches it, and even then must bleed again, though not in pain.
Would that the ‘hand of love’ had touched Ivor, in our so-called enlightened age of kindness and compassion.