Precious moments

In 2020 I met a palliative care doctor, who works mainly with patients who are dying. I asked him, “How do you do it? Is it not the hardest, saddest job in the world?” Now, 18 months later, we have cared for many people during their last weeks and months. We’ve ensured that their days were filled with beauty, love and music. Now my question is, “How can we NOT do this?”

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This week I walked into room 9 to check on a guest. It is a lovely room with big windows, with light streaming in, right beside the pool. I got such a big fright on my entrance, as the guest suddenly looked 30 years younger! I know our care is good, but this was miraculous! I then realised that it was the guest’s daughter cuddled up in her mom’s bed while her mom was sitting in the recliner chatting to her daughter whom she had not seen in 2 years.

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It was the most beautiful moment. I know my guest has limited time – she has stage four cancer, but I also know that she is a mother, a wife and a grandmother. She does not stop being those things just because she is dying. The opportunity she had to tuck her daughter in to her bed, knowing that young mothers are permanently exhausted, gave her dignity and purpose. She remembered that she is more than the tumours ravaging through her body. She is more than her illness or she is more than a fast-approaching death. Her daughter was able to experience her mother’s nurturing and love and was also reminded of who she still is despite her failing body.

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I get sad when people tell me that if they ever get diagnosed with a terminal disease, they will shoot themselves, or when they say to us that it is undignified to lie in a bed in nappies, being confined to a wheelchair or struggling with dementia. It is hard, yes, but there is such pure beauty in these times too. Life is so much more precious than we realise, whether it is in health or in sickness.

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I cherish these frail but beautiful moments in our guests’ lives. These are glimpses of what it is like to be fully and intentionally human.

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