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.