I got up too early, have finished my list of chores for today so nothing to do till I go to a funeral this afternoon, my second for the year. My role as a pastoral worker in the church means I go to many of those through the year. Most are not close friends but some have become so through many visits and many shared cups of tea. Sometimes death seems all around as I go through the nursing homes and retirement village on my visiting rounds but there is life and laughter too. Some of the staff are really good at clowning around and helping to lift someone's day.
I sat and did a quiz for one visit this week, it seems a strange thing to do but the lady I was visiting asked me to sit and help her to answer the questions.I was allowed to answer only if the other members of the group did not know the answer. Sometimes the visits don't seem to be about religion but about friendship and sharing and having that special someone to sit next to you and hold your hand and share a laugh. Because I myself feel that hunger for touch it seems natural sometimes to hold someone's hand as I am talking to them. Most of my ministry is to women so that is okay.
It has taken me a while to be comfortable back in the pastoral role. The first time I took up visiting, a year out from the death of Ray and then Mum I really had to force myself to go back to the Nursing Home that was my mother's home for the last two and a half years of her life. I think the staff were aware of that as I got a few hugs and a lot of smiles and even a visit from the chaplain who invited me back to her office for a cup of coffee, a rare honour. Sadly she is leaving this month to go to another job so I hope her replacement is as warm and caring. I am just one of many who visit from local churches but as I was also a regular visitor because of Mum I think I get special treatment.
I am still thinking about the shape of my life, what to give up, what to take up. It is a vexing question but I think through this year it will start to be clear to me what I want my life to be like. I do like the quote from John Lennon's song ' Beautiful Boy', "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" as I have found that is the way my life seems to be, so I have to take that factor into account too. There may have to be a sudden change of plans and I should hold onto life lightly and not too fiercely. Twelve hard years as a caregiver taught me that. I think some of my deep grief came from the fact that I just wanted to cling to the past and mourned the plans we had that would never come to fruition. Hopefully I am over that now.
No love interest in my life, no-one special to fill my days. I have a lot of pleasant acquaintances and they do bring some joy into my life but there are still long periods of loneliness and yes, I still cry for what I have lost. Ray will always be in my heart if not so much in my mind as he still is now. But the years go by and it is now two years, four months and ten days since he died. When I first came on here I wondered why people were still here after three years or more but I understand now that there is comfort in being here, reading other people's stories, sharing in their struggles, maybe adding a comment or an encouragement. We don't all move on at the same pace and sometimes it is two steps forward and one step back.
Thanks to all who comment on my blog, it is great to know that I am not the only one going through a particular stage or having a particular feeling. We all have our ups and downs and as I look out of my window onto what is still a sunny day despite the weather forecast of wind and rain I am so grateful for what I still have. Am I different from others here? Yes and no. We are all similar in our grief and different in our recovery, we are not clones but individuals living unique lives. But this is a village of widows and widowers and we all have our grief in common even though how we deal with it is how we as individuals deal with it.
A lot of my dealing with people in the pastoral care situation is dealing with loss and grief. It is hard to move from a little retirement unit into the one room of a hostel with all it's rules and regulations or from your little cozy room that you have personalized and made your haven into a four bed ward in the nursing home. I deal with this situation a lot. I do a lot of listening and make my responses as gentle as possible. It is not what I say that helps but the fact that I take an hour to listen to what the person has to say. I am not a counselor I am a care worker so the fact that I do care is really the point.
If you are like me and capable of listening going into a retirement village, hostel or nursing home as a volunteer is not had work it is a privilege. For me it allows me to make use of some of my experiences of life and to gain much from hearing the experiences of others. I think the fact that I have been through loss and grief myself helps me to empathize rather than sympathize. I hope to continue to be able to do it for a while yet. I suspect it helps me as much as it helps them.