I returned as a volunteer recently to the Mallorcan association, Dime Cuenta Con Nosotros, a group of dedicated volunteers who visit the two palliative care units on the island. It has been some years since I have spent Tuesday mornings visiting patients and their families, but I am happy to be back for a number of reasons.
Death is a topic I am curious about, a curiosity that has been there for some time, years in fact. I don’t know where this curiosity came from, but the subject of death has always been a healthy and matter of fact topic present in the background of my life. My earliest memories of death was attending the funeral of my beloved nain, my father’s mother, up in North Wales on a windy day. My younger sister and I spent the time of the graveside ceremony running amok through gravestones and having a rather fun time.
Some years later when I was about 13 years old, my mother picked up the newspaper one day and asked if I knew a girl named Sue. The headlines explained how her father had shot her whilst she slept and then shot himself, apparently desperate with financial troubles. My mother broke the news in a very natural way, and I remember that whilst I cried from shock, part of me felt that I didn’t have to cry. Certainly my mother treated the subject naturally even though the setting was horrifying.
As I headed to my twenties, grandparents died at home, suddenly, not ill but just time for them to go. Death was celebrated as a life well lived and a death well had, I was blessed, very blessed to have these experiences. Not everyone is so lucky and death is a subject that brings with it fears, confusion, mystery and for perhaps a few a certain understanding.
Returning to Dime is an honour for me. There I meet professionals working in the health sector, dealing with death in a dignified and respectful manner. From the nurses to the doctors, from the psychologists and social workers and to the volunteers, all are learning from their experiences and learning all the time. Training is given on a regular basis to the volunteers and Dime is fortunate to receive the support of some amazing individuals on this island. Thanks to charities like Cala Nova Cancer Care Charity Shop, their fund raising and generous donations allow Dime to do what they do which is sending volunteers like me in to visit the many patients facing perhaps one of their biggest challenges ever.
What do I do? I enter a patient’s room and politely ask if they would like a visit. In a hospice setting this adds to the quality of care received by the patient. Why? We provide support to those inspiring individuals who work in the day-to-day care and treatment of those with cancer and perhaps other life changing illnesses. We are incognito, we come and we go. We listen and hold hands and if we need to, we can cry with a family member. We can try to take them away from their own day-to-day, just for a moment. Or perhaps we’ll be blessed to help them face what’s ahead. We can hear what is not said if we are silent, and we can give and spread love for a while, as much as we can.
It is an honour to be part of the team at Dime and it is a privilege to spend time with people facing challenges I cannot imagine. I can’t change the world, but I can change my attitude about life and perhaps I can, just for a moment, provide a listening ear to someone.
Dime Cuenta Con Nosotros relies on donations and are always grateful for support. If you would like to be a volunteer and have languages, Spanish necessary, then please contact them directly – http://www.cuentaconnosotros.es