Mallorca Death Café

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Since last December, I have been hosting regular Death Cafés in the village of Binissalem where I live.  This summer I also hosted one in our capital Palma and last weekend another up in the beautiful mountains in the village of Deia.  To say I am happy I discovered the Death Café movement is an understatement – I am ecstatic!

As a bit of background first and taken from the Death Café website to make it clear:  “at a Death Café people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. The objective is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’ and is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes”.

Every meeting I have ever hosted has been unique but perhaps one regular occurrence is that whilst I may try to suggest topics of discussion, my wonderful DC members prefer to do it their way!  If I were to give our encounters a quality, I would say that respect pours out of everyone at every encounter.  Some people’s opinions on death can be very different but the atmosphere of respect makes every opinion count.  I have learned a lot about myself too and see that my opinions are constantly challenged in the setting of my head whilst I hear what other people have to say about subjects about which I may have previously been quite closed.

Everything about the Death Café movement has me excited!  From the name itself – after all saying the word death generates so many reactions,  from horrified facial expressions to curious bemusement!  In all cases it does get people talking!  The guidelines suggested for hosting a death café are also entrancing!  Setting a death café in a tea room or eco café, enjoying tea and cake, how could I not enjoy conversation about death in this type of setting.  For my village to boast an eco café serving the best in tea and cake makes every encounter that much sweeter (plus the kilos have been piling on)!

Whilst the guidelines do advise that a death cafe is not a bereavement support group, even that has been questioned in one of my events simply because Mallorca is not yet set up to offer the recently bereaved a setting for support as I recently discovered.  Seeing the compassion and love so freely shared in a recent event towards a grieving widow made me proud of my fellow sisters and brothers residing on planet earth and I saw how the death café can help.

We meet to talk about death and through that we talk about life, about hope, about different cultures and we break down the taboo around death.  We challenge ourselves and our opinions and beliefs always in an atmosphere of respect and interest.  Our conversations are our inner most thoughts and reflections, shared perhaps for the very first time.  In short, these encounters free us up to get on with life and living and I am so glad to have discovered the Death Café movement.

Find a Death Café near you          www.deathcafe.com

Enjoy tea & cake near me              L’Exquisit, C/Rectoria 2, Binissalem, 07350 Mallorca

Dying to get there

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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

Hasta la vista Juan

Juan Correa

Gone but not forgotten

Today we said goodbye to Juan Correa Maturana, 40 years young, a son, a colleague and a friend to many.  I had the pleasure of working with Juan during my time at Planet Space.  He was a hard worker, meticulous in all that he did and a collector of anything about to be thrown in the bin!  His desk was a collection of interesting bits and pieces and Juan was always the one to save useful rubbish from being thrown away by our customers.

He drove the van the way he approached work – hard and fast!  He listened to the radio, tuning into rock, heavy metal, anything loud that went with driving a van fast.  Many a sleepy morning when I would have to take the van out of the warehouse, starting the engine and having the radio kick in would jolt me into the day with the blare of Juan’s music choice from the day before.

No job was too hard for Juan.  He had no time for fools either so many a time Juan would step in and finish a job with the forklift that I was capable of botching up, luckily before I would.  He liked my cakes, always saving his slice for when he would really take the time to appreciate and savour every last morsel.

I bumped into him in Binissalem one day last November when he had come for the day to check on his beloved dogs.  It was raining, the day was pretty grim and Juan was below energy, par for the course with his illness.  I took him back to my place as it was lunch time and Pau and I were going to eat.  Juan stayed for a while, eating taking as long as Pau normally takes – another virgo.  But this time eating was not the same as it had always been for Juan.  He asked me why I had not been to visit him in hospital in the preceeding months.  I can’t remember what I said but I did say sorry and I did say I had no excuse, it was what I do best, bury my head.  I am glad he asked me though.

I last saw Juan this past Saturday at the Hospital General in Palma, in the palliative care unit.  His mother was there and his dear friend Jan, former girlfriend and an incredible woman.  These two women were with him to the end.  Friends and colleagues came daily to see him although by now he was not able to acknowledge them but he was aware of us all.  One such visitor was like a father figure to him – owner of Complete Marine Freight and Planet Space, Peter Sell.  Peter told me how he had said goodbye to Juan some days before his passing.  Juan managed to squeeze his hand even though by this time Juan was out for the count.

I know Juan would have been happy with the gathering today.  He would have loved seeing STP maintenance department being represented as well as longtime, faithful customer Noel Dyne.  Old colleagues were there and Manu, our faithful every Wednesday sales rep too.  We were all there, his CMF compis led by his work bff Lucy as well as his PS buddies.  His mum, bless her, kept her dignity and welcomed everyone of us and along with Jan and a primo-hermano, the family was complete.  The only one unable to be there of course was Juan!

Juan, I’m sure you’ve got a brand new van to drive where you are now, music blaring!  Along with a motorbike, boat, the open air and your hair flying in the wind, you must be rocking!  We will miss your collection of bits and pieces around your desk.  Packing crates and pallets won’t be the same without you.  Seeing you show up looking snazzy for a night out will truly be missed.

Juan, que sepas, todos te queremos y todos te echaremos de menos.  Descansa en Paz brother – we love you!

Bon viatge Jana

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Janaina enjoying a winter’s day in Palma last December

In December last year I had one of those meetings of like minds and what a pleasure that was.  I had missed meeting this Brazilian beauty when she had visited in the previous summer but December decided that it was time for us to share a coffee and get to know each other.  Janaina had come from London with the instructions from our mutual friend Maria Candida to get in touch with me.  She called me at an exciting moment in my life and I soon discovered that she too was at an exciting moment in her own.  In this conversation we connected immediately, like old friends do when they haven’t spoken for a long while.  That was her – easy to talk to, friendly, sunny, happy, just a great energy all round and of course I had to get to know her!

We met in Sta Catalina and sat outside one of the many busy cafés and chatted easily.  What I immediately loved about Janaina, apart from her stunning smile and easy nature, was that she was eager and enthusiastic about life and invested in the beauty of it.  I told her about my latest idea in which I was committing to losing weight from 1st January and how my idea was a little bit more crazy than just dieting!  I planned to invite people to donate food for the hungry in Mallorca every time I lost a kilo.  I was used to receiving all sorts of reactions to this idea, from loud guffaws, to support by pledging food but from Janaina she was immediately on board and going to support me from her learnings about nutrition and she was going to treat me like a client but not charge me – how awesome was she!  I was hooked by her enthusiasm and we arranged to meet again.

Boxing Day was our next encounter and I took her along to a little party at my boss’ home and she fit in like a hand in a glove there!  I introduced her to good friends – Jo, Sue, Sylvia, Daniela, Sam, Kay, Hayley – to mention a few and of course their husbands.  I remember my boss looking over at her and wistfully but jokingly say to his son “what do you think about your new stepmother?”  She was a beauty alright but that rare beauty that is not in the physical but in the ethereal sense – almost divine.

She met my sons and we came back to my home and read the Osho cards.  I am no expert of card reading but I remember how excited we both were at what lay ahead and she was positive and in tune with her surroundings in this new stage of her life.  We arranged to have our first consultation in the next days and I met her at her home in Palma.

At this consultation I was struck by her unwavering support.  She was different to other practitioners I had ever met in that she was invested in me and my path.  I remember feeling supported in a gentle way and at one point she gave me a valuable tip and one I shall forever treasure.  She told me that when out walking, when taking the time to meditate the nature around me, I could begin to see myself physically how I wanted to be ie losing the weight I was setting out to lose.  More importantly though she told me I could love the Glynis I was here and now.  She told me to see every bit of me and love it all and in loving me I could make room for a newer me, the slimmer me I wanted to be.

We made plans that she would continue to treat me, she would come shopping with me the following week, she would even be delighted to come and show me how to cook in a more healthy manner.  Janaina was there for the long haul of my weight loss and she was invested in me – the future was there in that moment on the 28th December 2012 – we were more than nutritionist and patient, we were friends.

We emailed over the next couple of days and on the 31st December Janaina had a heart attack and from that day until yesterday lay in a different state of being.  She garnered an incredible support of love and light from all over the world.  She was supported by the unwavering love of her family and friends.  People who had met her once meditated for her as they had been touched by that one, fleeting moment of her.  Even people who hadn’t met her felt touched by her.  She was love.  She is light.  She has left this place now, this earthly dwelling and I believe she has spent the last 8 months creating magic and wonder.  She touched my life for sure.  I lost weight without really trying because she taught me some basic nutrition but more than that, she invited me to look at myself differently, with love rather.  That was the Janaina I met briefly – an earth angel who was love and who shared that with all who met and knew her.

Janaina, thank you for your inspiration – you were a joy to be with, your smile lifted up a hundred thousand heavy hearts – be happy.

El paso doble

Olé!

Sunken eyes, deep in the black hollow face, dream of home.
Escaping from himself took him by surprise to the white man’s land – olé.
Mami said goodbye to the man-child she’d borne, never to see again in these lands.
I look upon his sadness and feel that the next dance is mine.

The laughing policeman in the next room surrounds himself by hope drowned in sorrow,
wishing away today for tomorrow and his dance finally comes.

Paquita, oh Paquita.
No words, no songs, only stories told from her eyes,
she dances all the time in the place we cannot share and then she too is gone.

You.  You went to bed and bumped your head,

man, he gun cum get yu!

You danced your way, every day, to the rhythm of the paso doble – olé!

Grieving

My dad to the left with his siblings - Aunty Beryl, Uncle Mike, Aunt Ingrid and Uncle Billy

My dad to the left with his siblings – Aunty Beryl, Uncle Mike, Aunt Ingrid and Uncle Billy

Death was always a subject treated with common sense in my family and as such I grew up never worrying about the inevitable – it comes to us all!  However, this year my superhero of a father, Gerry German, passed from this physical world into the heavens of light, angels, good times and reggae.  He went in a style fitting for someone of his reputation – suddenly, without warning although we had been waiting for his fuse to cut out for sometime given his 70hr a week work load at 84yrs of age!

We were philosophical, we were sad, we were busy with arrangements to send him off with a fitting celebration and I was here, over the water on my island home of Mallorca, in my safe haven called Binissalem.  I was fine.

That was May and now, since the end of summer, since the long days have shortened and the grapes have been collected; since the doors and windows have closed us into our organised lives again, I have been grieving.  I miss my dad.

It’s more than him though.  For 20 years I have lived here and 12 years in my spiritual home Binissalem – the home I had been searching for all of my life.  I miss my family.  It’s been a long time to wonder on my own.  Although I would see my parents and siblings every year a couple of times, although I would speak with my dad 3 or 4 times a week when he would call to check in on the boys and me – I miss the family.

I ask myself “why did I think I was an island and could do this on my own”?  Was it fear of intimacy, of being close.  Was it pig headed and stubborn arrogance or even ignorance?

Grieving is a weary sensation.  I am tired and have been since September.  I cry a lot and easily.  I try not to but it comes without warning.  I have locked myself in and it’s hard to open the door at times, but…  it will pass, of that I’m sure.  I am still far away from my family but I still talk with my mum 3 or 4 times a week, when I can find her at home!  I talk more now with the rest of my family and so I am grateful that dad’s passing has given me that.  He’s not here but he lives on and this day I ask him to forgive me for my independent streak, inherited from him!

I love you

I’m sorry

Please forgive me

Thank you.