This show, aside from featuring lots of babies and making my wife cry, has buckets of wisdom.
“poverty is thinking love is a blow instead of a kiss and an insult instead of kindness.”
“there will always be babies.”
“Sometimes there isn’t anything you can say.”
“God is not in the event he is in the response.”
“once a thing is known it cannot be unknown.”
But the one I want to stop on for now is. “You just keep living until you are alive again.” This line comes just as the principle character, Jenny, has lost a loved one. Mrs. Rubin, a holocaust survivor is moving out of the area and came to say goodbye to Jenny when Jenny bursts into tears.
Mrs. Rubin’s Daughter: That’s enough Mama. Let’s leave nurse Jenny in peace.
Mrs. Rubin: Peace? How can she know peace now?
Jenny: (sobbing) I didn’t get to say goodbye Mrs. Rubin.
Mrs. Rubin: It is terrible now. But it will get better. Someday.
Jenny: How do I last? How do I live?
Mrs. Rubin: You just keep living. Until one day you are alive again.
In the midst of suffering and grief this is a really tough one to swallow but it provides a very nice counterpoint to the typical Christian response to grief which all too commonly goes something like “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” or “(s)he’s in a better place now.” These and hundreds of platitudes like them (I’m not calling scripture a platitude but I AM saying the heart that’s quoting it is) all seem to say the same thing in the Christian faith. “The loved one you lost is with God, you should be happy.” But I look at how people responded to Jenny’s grief in this episode (full recap of the episode available here http://blogs.weta.org/tellyvisions/2014/04/20/call-midwife-recap-series-3-episode-4) and I think “this is how it is done.
The senior nun, Sister Julienne, the one who arranges the work schedules refuses to allow Jenny back onto rotation even when Jenny demands it.
Jenny: I need to work.
Sister Julienne: No. I won’t discuss it at least until after Alec’s funeral.
The sister recognizes that Jenny needs to grieve and eventually organizes for Jenny to take a prolonged leave of absence away from the work and the memories. Another wonderful moment came when Jenny is sitting on the edge of her bed staring into nothingness. Her friend Trixie (another midwife) brings a cup of tea, sets it on the bedside table and then sits with Jenny offering only the comfort of her presence.
And then there is the beautiful words from Mrs. Rubin. The holocaust survivor who see’s grief and doesn’t diminish it or compare it to her own. She doesn’t say “what have you to cry about when you are still so young?” and she doesn’t say “you don’t know real grief.” She doesn’t offer any platitudes either. She just accepts Jenny’s grief for what it is: terrible. No, it isn’t ok, and things aren’t ok now, but some day they will be. You just have to keep pushing through to that day.
Then there is the great moment that comes when one of the midwives says “I keep trying to think of something to say.” and another character replies, “sometimes you can’t say anything. But there’s always something you can do.” And what the episodes shows, though never says, is that on those days when you don’t have the strength to live another day, that’s when you need your friends around you.