I am lying on the sofa with the sun shining in through the twinkly butterfly installation in my window, listening with a fluttering heart to an old 1950s record of Continental Tango Music played by the deeply camp and long forgotten 101 Strings Orchestra. The Sound, it says on the record cover, Of Magnificence. Despite a part of me longing to take it off and hurl it into the far distance, a good deal of me wants to give into this romantic, unselfconscious medley of passion. Put that way, who wouldn't? Much of me longs to melt into the violins, the accordian, the thing that sounds like a Hammond Organ. (Hammond Organs mean ice skating at Richmond Ice Rink in the 70s. Remember?) And the rest of this music makes me feel I am in a Peter Sellers Pink Panther film, with technicolor in my sitting room. I am unsure whether the music is making me happy or violent. But as I write this, a passionate Tango has just struck up, and I am full of angst. Oh oh oh. How will I tell Peter Sellers when he comes into my film set sitting room, that I am a) someone else b) a murderer c) married? But patience, the Tango has finished and another one has started up that makes me feel I am now in full Flamenco dress on the Spanish border singing across the dust and guards that my heart is true and even though I am dressed like this, I can be sensible and fling myself into a proper job till you, oh my love, come back over the border to claim me.
I have just come back from a course in Dorset with Felicity Warner, where I have begun my training and my first steps into the work I am wanting to do. Felicity has set up a foundation called Soul Midwives - see her website www.soulmidwives.co.uk . She has begun to train those of us who want to do this work, and sent us out to do our stuff. A Soul Midwife is someone who is an emotional and spiritual support and companion to the dying, helping those who are at the end of life to achieve the best death that they can under the circumstances, with as much dignity and attention and love as possible. A Soul Midwife is not medical (though many who train are already nurses and doctors) and aims to work alongside doctors and counsellors. We work one to one with those who come to us, and help by listening, by offering such things as gentle touch massage and often other holistic treatments such as aromatherapy or healing, for example, as many who train are already registered as therapists in these fields, to support and to be as practically helpful as we can.
Having gone to Dorset, I have come away utterly inspired and extremely nervous. I know nothing. Each person who is facing death is tied up with medical stuff, procedures, fears, expectations, unfinished business, legal business, family business and management and relief of symptoms. Oh goodness. Each person is different, each person will die in their own way, and as I am starting out, I wonder will I be able to help? Of course I can. This is something that I want to do. Everyone starts at the beginning, there is always the first step. And I have been working in my local hospice for a while now, and I do my wonderful A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life (www.agracefuldeath.blogspot.com) which as you know, is on in Birmingham for the rest of this month and you will go to Birmingham to see it, at St Martin in the Bull Ring, you know you will.
The course in Dorset was full of the most wonderful people. From all corners of the UK, and from all backgrounds possible. We all have experience of end of life care and issues. Some work professionally already with the dying - we had an inspirational Funeral Director who runs her Funeral Company with care, light, love and inclusiveness. Two people came from the care home they run up North, specialising with end of life care. I was very taken with their stories of how they deal with their residents, their families, and all the details of practical and medical care given to old people as they are dying. But I found their humour and dedication to the individual really astonishing. The stories they told of the old men were wonderful; the old men now ill and in the home, once vital to the life of the factories, pits and communities, being diverted to the pub for a quick pint on the way back from the doctors with the wonderful male nurse who came on our course. Full of love and kindness.
We had alternative therapists, we had all faiths and none, we had trainee celebrants, we had even an Angel Rieki Master - a lady who works with angels. We had nurses, mums, healers, and a dance teacher. And me, an Artist. All of us bound by our passion to work with the dying and to apply ourselves to becoming a friend and companion to those that come to us asking for help.
So back to today. I set the scene with the help of my passionate Tango medley music, so that I could write this and pour out my heart, this sunny Sunday afternoon in Bognor Regis. But, the music forced me into a Peter Sellers film on the Spanish border, with all sorts of passionate and conflicting feelings and all in all I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. So that didn't work. I have started to talk about the Soul Midwife course, but have found that I don't know what to say yet because having done the course, I am exhausted and full to bursting with unprocessed thoughts.
So. Here I sit with the Tango record back in it's sleeve (and not flung far into the garden), the butterflies twinkling and dancing in the sunlight in the window, and my eyes crossed with the effort of thinking. At times like this, in order to move on to the next stage of life, one needs a nice strong pot of tea and some Cadbury's dairy milk. I can cope with that. I have to start somewhere.
The course, and the people on it, sound fascinating. I am especially pleased to hear that some care home managers were on it, and to hear how much they value their residents - it is good to hear the other side of the coin from the stories that make headlines.ReplyDelete
I saw my nieces today: the older one, who is training to be a vet, is having a few days break. The college calls these 'assimilation days' - after an intense learning period they give the suudents a little time and mental space to make sense of it all and catch up. Sounds to me like you need a few assimilation days. Tea, chocolate and sunshine sound like an ideal prescription.