As a soulmidwife (end of life care) part of my job is to support my friend (friend is used to refare to person I am working with never patient or client.) to think about and write end of life plan.
This is something that give back some control of a often difficult situation
I’ve been doing this for years we often start with a sort of bucket list.
Wish there anything that you haven’t done that you would like to do. This can be going somewhere, contacting estranged family members, writing letters, contacting or writing to children given up for adoption, writing to an abuser (trying the letter to a balloon.or burning it ) often helps and instils a sense of calm.
I’ve had a 72 year old lady who although quite frail wanted to ride a roller coaster we went to.ride speed a hair pin sort of ride at oakwood. I neednt of worried as she squeeled with absolute Glee and rode it another four times along with other rides.
We make memory boxes this helps tremendously. Thinks like photographs, letters birthday cards for the future. There are no rules
Practical things like where would you like to die?
Home, hospital, hospice?
Pain relief would you like to remain as lucid?
Obviously this is reviewed.
But first and foremost I am there for that person as much or as little as they choose.
To listen to hopes, fears, non judgemental confidential. Because often there are things that a person with an end of life diagnosis can’t tell loved ones. No mater how close
Blogging or a paper journal is something I suggest as I know I don’t have to convince you but writing things, thoughts, fears down helps.
We go shopping, I go to appointments and support friends to make informed decisions about their treatment. A few months ago I worked with an amazing lady who had a incurable brain tumor. She had been operated on and had numerous chemotherapy treatments all of which made her feel dreadful.
She decided that what time she had left she wanted to feel as well as possible. I went with her as she told her oncologist her decision. He was wonderful. As we left he asked her if she had any plans.
She smiled widely at him ‘im going to Cardiff with Joolz on the train, first class we will have lunch at the bay then buy shoes and handbags’ that’s exactly what we did
It’s an amazing job, I don’t get paid. I’d hate to think that if I charged that someone may need a soulmidwife and think that they can’t afford me.
I also have a holiday cottage on the banks of the tenant canal where end of life friends can have a long weekend or a week away from home with free therapies on hand.
Then there is the matter of a funeral plan.
Family often loose a loved one and suddenly realized that they have no idea on issues like burial or cremation, what cemetery, ashes scatted or not.
Religious or humanist service is a big one.
Families often believe that loved ones still hold same religion as they were christened.
After facing cancer or other end of life diagnosis people often start to explore what it is that they believe in. If anything.
I am spiritual but I completely respect any religious or non religious views or beliefs if I work with someone who is eg. Catholic and asks to be read the Bible or attend Mass to have me work with guided visualisation including Jesus or god. That’s exactly what we do.
Muslim, Jehovah witness pagan you get the picture.
I’m not always there at the end but if that is my friend’s request and I can be I am.
This can often include vigiling at home or hospital alone with my friend or with family
And again within the plan we have agreed on certain things. Often people want to know you are there beside them.
Gentle touch of hand massage, reiki healing, being there with a family member talking chatting reading.
Checking and reviewing pain levels.
Calling in family when requested and agreed.
Some people want just a chosen few around their bed. Others all the family.
After death I am often asked to brush hair sit and talk for awhile longer, opening the window coving a mirror stopping the clock.is a very old tradition alot of elderly people want upheld.
I often then have to hand over what that person wanted
For the most part families are respectful of their loved ones wishes and they are usually aware of my involvement.
Often I have managed to get them to address any difficult issues like organ donation (not cancer patients) or I’m.leaving all my money to the cats home.
The list of e.g where I will be taken.
Home or funeral director.
Embalmed or not.
Cardboard or wicker coffin
Natural burial site or Cemetery or cremation.
Life celebration in the community. No vicar, priest.
A humanist life celebration. With a chosen celebrant to deliver a service that we have already compiled . If this is the case just memories from family and friends are added afterwards.
This is often held in any non religious building eg. Community centre, public hall, garden or home. Or simply graveside.
A wake afterwards or a party.
Colours to be worn no suits or black.
A difficult on is is there anyone you do not wish to be there? In reality some people have a particular person that upest them.in life and they don’t want them at there funeral.
What clothes or shroud.
Open or closed coffin people to come and visit in funeral directors or at home or not.
I can also make finger print molds and craft silver jewelry for children or family members.
We write letters to children or family or short notes.
I worked with a lady who had two children. She ordered her own wicker coffin and used it as a blanket box until it was needed.
This showed the children it wasn’t a scary thing. When mum died and was placed in it at home the children sat with her write notes and tied them with ribbons to the casket placing favorite toys and photos with her.
This is a example of how death used to be.
Not clinical but part of life. People died at home in familiar surroundings not in white rooms surrounded by machines and healthcare staff who don’t have time to sit.
So to sum up it’s about giving back control and choice
Walking a sometimes scary path sharing tears and laughter memories and secrets that have sometimes never been shared.
It’s a privilege and a honour and when things go to plan I can sleep easy in my bed. Knowing that I’ve kept my promises
I was encouraged by an amazing friend of mine after I told her of a conversation that I’d had with a few of the people I work with.
They had asked if I would do their funeral or celebration as their celebrant. I didn’t feel qualified and so I decided to train as a celebrant I now am able to follow the journey just that bit further the service is often written together. Religious, humanist, spiritual. Again exactly what and how that person has requested. They have on final goodbye so I aim for it to be as perfect as possible. They often write most of the service with me video footage even let’s them take part in the service. Not for everyone but whatever is right for you.
As I said earlier I work with any faith or religion over the last eighteen months I’ve walked this journey with Donna my best friend. She has planned everything.
Believe me nothing left to chance. So not just as her soul midwife but her friend and confident I promised things would be exactly as she wanted.
It was nothing complicated compared with some plans that I have dealt with.
Number one was absolutely no religion. None! She asked me to conduct a spiritual end of life celebration.
NO church. No Hymns promise me she said don’t let my mother or anyone arrange anything.
I want a celebration in Port tenant community centre NO BLACK no formal Wear colours rainbows and pride flags
Will you be my celebrant she asked.
Of course again I promised and we set to work outlining her service her day f celebration Things she held dear issues that were important but mainly about her role as a Nan and a Mam
She wanted a burial, a cardboard coffin not to be embalmed. As I said nothing left to chance songs were chosen
Pink who knew..
Boy George star man
Gavin and Stacy islands in the stream
What could go wrong?
Well I’m sure there is a lesson here for me somewhere. But as yet I’m failing to see it.
My heart breaks at the thought that I’ve let her down.
I arranged with her sister to see the community centre to check the size.
Crossed wires meant I was sitting waiting outside the actual community centre Donna wanted.
Her sis was outside St Thomas church hall. In Swansea just around corner
Now from previous experience I’ve never come across a church hall being used. But the lass showing us around assued us that this was possible . That was okay it was a hall not a church. Bigger on the same estate.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing I wish I has spoken up and said actually we should stick to community centre that’s what she asked for.. but not wanting to upset anyone I didn’t .
The vicar Mr Steve bunting via the funeral directors then says actually no you can’t have it in hall.
But Donna can have everything she wanted EVERYTHING if you come into church.
It didn’t sit right with me she didn’t want a church but I was assured he was nice guy he would allow all the things she wanted .
This bloody funeral he exclaimed at our first meeting. Unprofessional.
He then tells us he can’t have a Celebrant do a service in his church. Isn’t that part of what Donna wanted? Why didn’t he tell us that last week when he promised everything. We could have rearranged?
He now says he has to deliver 90% of the service.
The one that Donna and I wrote from our hearts.
He has made off the cuff comments about me re tarot cards and spirit boards before he had even met me.
I’m presuming he f.b me.
Judgemental preducice and rude.
What would it have mattered Mr bunting she didn’t want someone who didn’t know her someone she hadnt met talking about her
It broke my heart Donna of all people for things to go this wrong for. I promised I fulfill her plans
So my random girl, I’m beyond sorry. Really I am.
One funeral you get and I can’t fix it if I could I would.
I have booked you the best drag queen I could find you promised your friend Susan Cheryl and Wendy that when you felt better you would have a night out with cocktails and a drag queen.
You shall have it my friend.
My other promises I swear I will keep.
Our grand daughter Emillia I will love her enough for both of us. I will take her to all of your favorite places take her camping talk to her of magic and fairies.
I know that you are never very far away and I will talk to you often. That you know I have tried to give you all that you wanted
I love you my random friend come talk to me soon.
Here is a poem given to me after the first funeral I took. Encouraged by Donna.
My friend Ian was 49 amazing a man’s man had been a army man.
He would tease me that poetry was for girls .
Never catch him writing it.
After his funeral his sister thanked me gave me a check as a donation for my work and this poem.
I’m beyond proud to have know him
May he journey on safely. It’s called the Last Goodbye
Cancer was the catalyst that founded our friendship
Without it we wouldn’t have met.
A soul midwife I expected someone nursey maybe serious.
That Joolz is exactly what I didn’t get.
You came into my room like morning sunlight.
Bringing me life’s energy love and fun.
We made plans for things I’d like to do exactly my way.
Talked of my life and all that I’ve done.
I’ve shed a few tears, but we’ve laughed so much.
If it needs saying I know I can say anything to you.
Complete unconditional acceptance it’s not just a ‘job’ to you.
You’ve walked along a path I found scary
Gone before me with what to expect.
Taken worry from myself and my family.
Always treated us with love and respect.
You have a way of just fitting into families.
Into a Joolz shaped space we weren’t aware was there.
To make plans to reassure, take me to magical planes
I’d never even dreamt of before
Now when sleeping I dream of new adventures.
The wonderful places and things I haven’t yet seen.
You’ve given me the courage to go further explore without feeling frightened.
My eternal friend
Soul midwife Earth angel who needs no wings.
I know that as I leave you will be there waving and cheering me on to adventures new.
As you go on in life as a soul midwife to others know I’ll be around to cheer you on too.