They found her in the sheugh.* Well… it was actually Patsy the dog that found her. Jim took Patsy for a walk each evening before turning in for the night, he felt it settled and calmed him down, ready for sleep. There would be no sleep tonight. The images of Josie lying in that state played like an ancient movie before his eyes. One image on top of another until the mound filled his skull.
Josie was past the three score years and ten. Jim was not that far behind her, having lived in the same village since their days at the two teacher school. Josie sat at the back with the ‘Big’ boys and girls, while he sat with the juniors up front near the blackboard, where Mrs Murphy could keep her beady eye on them.
“Poor Josie. Poor, poor Josie”! Jim’s bowed head shook from side to side with each whispered word. How long had she been lying there with the cold dirty puddle frozen solid about her? Why was she crossing the rough ground at that time? The way she was facing meant she was heading away from home and the only connection she had at the other end was the church.
Maisie Meehan said Josie often went that route to church of a Sunday evening, to avoid the group of teenagers with their BMX bikes and skateboards, who congregated round the monument on the main street. Engrossed in their loud music and shouting over the top of it, they never notice the frail old woman struggling to get round them.
The back lane was quieter.
She must have tripped, it was a wonder she was not dead. It might have been a blessing if she was. The state of her these last few months was nothing ordinary.
“What in all that was good and holy, was Josie doing out in her nightdress”? Asked Patricia Peel as she poured another cup of tea for Jim, adding a generous drop of milk and three heaped spoonfuls of sugar. Patricia believed in the old ways. Weak tae with plenty of sugar – for shock! Jim needed something a little stronger, but Patricia kept a dry house.
The ambulance was quick of coming, and the man and woman on board were very gentle with Josie. They soon had her on the stretcher and away to the hospital. The few gathered onlookers were able to give her name, age, address and the fact she lived alone with not another living soul to call her own.
As the tea went down the tales filtered out from the group in Patricia’s kitchen. Josie had become very forgetful of late, she would forget to make her meals. Walk up the street to the shop in her slippers. Not remember to put on her overcoat when going out in the bitter driving sleet.
And… then there was tonight…. Found lying in that ice in her nightdress, thin as muslin, the only protection was to her modesty. On her feet she had her Sunday best shoes, on her head the familiar blue felt hat and her handbag still over her arm. Maisie had taken charge of the bag and of course she had to inspect the interior. Well you never know, it might have thrown some light on things for them.
“Josie was definitely on her way to church” declared Maisie. “All that was in the bag was her Goodwill envelope and a cotton handkerchief with a ‘J’ embroidered on one corner”.
“But this is Wednesday.” said Jim, finally finding his voice. “Has she been out there all this time? It is a wonder she is still alive!”
“I should have called in more often” said Patricia, “But she was growing more deaf, and closing in on herself as the months went by. It was very difficult to have a conversation with Josie.”
It was at this stage that Winnie broke her silence, she had been sitting silently with a deep frown on her brow for the duration. “I… I have to admit, I was a little afraid of her” she said. “Josie had the peculiar grin on her face and her eyes were staring at you, She gave me the creeps. You never knew if she heard what you had to say or understood any of it!
Josie had slowly drifted behind the screen of dementia. Lost to the world.
Everyone knew she had no living soul to care for, or look after her, yet they all went about their business not paying any heed.
*Sheugh – A narrow open drain or ditch, often with water in it. It comes from Ulster Scots.**
** Thanks Nelly, that one phrase gave me the inspiration for this piece! 😀
Our topic today Getting Lost was suggested by Paul from Blackwatertown. Now why not drift on over and read what the other active members of our group have to say: Delirious, Maria/Gaelikaa, Maria SilverFox Magpie 11, OCD writer, Padmum, Paul, Ramana, The Old Fossil, Will Knott.
* In the past we as a group wrote on the topic ‘Lost’ you can find the rubbish I spouted read my thoughts on the matter here