Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Country Carer | Doula Work | Community

Doula Work

I have had the immense privilege in the last few months to support three people at the end of their lives.

I would like to emphasise that this is not medical support; we are lucky enough in Hampshire to have the wonderful Rosemary Foundation; a team of professional, dedicated people who provide a hospice at home for so many.

The Doula work that I do is to work with a family in coming to terms with the impending death of someone that they love.

In the last few cases this has been sad but not tragic.  The death has been timely and expected.  I have had the chance to sit and listen to memories being shared, we have gone through photographs and I have written postcards to old friends on their behalf; the words that are used are their words and they have been key in writing the eulogies too.

I have learned that although the death is timely and often desired it is still a tough call.  There is an empty, hollow feeling that one is left with. 

The space that that person occupied is blank and once the body has been laid to rest and the ephemera disposed of all there is is an echo. 

I see a similarity in a stranger in the street and it brings me up short.  A sound, a smell, a mannerism takes me straight back to them and I find these things a bittersweet comfort.

I cannot express enough how wonderful it is to be allowed to work with someone at the end of their life; there are no holes barred and the honesty with which my clients have faced their demise, their dignity and courage is awe inspiring.

I am impressed too by the courage and kindness shown by family members.  It is as though once you have given them permission to be hands on and involved that they grow into a role of advocate. 

Most unexpectedly, recently, I had the joy of working with a grandson ... he was so receptive and frank about what was happening to his Grandpa; his compassion and humour stood out and when the time came to speak out at the funeral, he needed no notes - he spoke from his heart and it was beautiful.

I wanted to pay tribute here to my training.  I was trained by Chele Lawrence of the UK Society of Celebrants and she and my Doula family continue to walk beside me through this work.  It is a hard path that we have chosen and we would not be able to do it without each other.

The business of naming | Celebrant work | Nurture

We all have a name, chosen for us by our parents ... it may be a reference to someone special in their lives, it may be a name that they have heard and liked or it might be a reference to a character in a book or film.

As we grow up, the name that was chosen for us becomes our name and is subject to our alteration.  Some people have a pet or nickname that refers to a characteristic or event.

Our friends adapt our name and sometimes it sticks - for most of my school life I was Sid, it came about as a malapropism and there are a few people who still call me by it.  I am ambivalent - school days were not the happiest period of my life and I was delighted to leave Sid behind.

My Father called me Lulu or Cinders - those names cut me in half, I loved my Father deeply and I miss him to this day, the people that call me Lulu are part of that inner circle of love and trust.

A naming ceremony is a joyous event, the child is central to the day; a focus for the aspirations of those who love them.  They say that it takes a community to raise a child.  I understand that to mean that it is the collective responsibility of a community to look out for the child and their parents, to see that they are supported.

The children that I name will be loved and supported by their immediate family but also by their wider community.  By having a celebration that encompassed all of the village and which was redolent with love and happiness and humour - they are assured of their place in that community.

What's in a Name ~ Cindy Groves
My Grandfather ~ Edward Nigel

I will look at you and our eyes will meet,
recognition will spark and fizz between us.
You are as precious to me as the tiniest grain of gold,
I see our paths twisting together like strands of silk.
How do I name that depth of love?

What can I say that will show the world what you mean to me?
Can I name you for someone who has gone before;
that was their name and their place in my heart.
The tenderness I feel for you is new;
freshly minted and unique.

Should your name be grand?
Will your name be used by all who know you?
or will you be chosen for a special name, a pet name,
a name that is only yours; that marks you out -
you are unknown to us yet.

Will you be brave and strong or quiet and homely?
Will you rage against the world or skip sweetly through?
Should your name mark a place, a time, a moment?
Should you wear the badge of history or a well loved tale?

For now I will call you by a private name
a name that is ours in the dark of the night.
A name that thumps and bumps as you do in my womb
I will whisper your name as I sing to you
I will murmur your name as I stroke you, safe inside.

Your name is still unknown to me,
it will come in a rush, as you will.
A name that will mark you out as who you are.
A name that fits you like the softest shawl,
tucked around you, your name and your's alone.

I wrote this poem a while ago for a friend in advance of the birth of her daughter.  I wrote it in remembrance of the birth of my own children and the certainty that I felt for their names.

I love naming days, I love the rituals and symbolism and the coming together of family and friends.