Wednesday, 4 July 2007


a poppy weeded out of the garden, unfolding like a butterfly from the chrysalis, like crumpled silk easing out.

Poppies commemorate the dead of the wars. I think of death and how to cope with watching someone die, see health care mistakes that cause a drop in quality of life that needn't have occurred. A book has been lent by the Paul Satori Foundation (hospice care at home in pembrokeshire). it is an old book from 1988 I think: I don't know what to say; how to help and support someone who is dying by Dr. Robert Buckman. It seems very sensible and caring and I am going to quote something I found in the in the introduction:

"Before we go any further I think I ought to come clean and say that I don't believe in the mystique of death. I don't believe that death is a fine and wonderful thing in itself. I don't see it as a white light, a secret garden, a butterfly coming out of a cocoon or any other concrete image, however beautiful. Some people do have strong images like these which give them inner peace and tranquility and allow them to accept dying with little difficulty. But for many people, that kind of inner support isn't there - which is one of the main reasons why this book is needed."

I am greatly relieved by this, though of course I would love a magic wand to make it not so.

Robert Buckman believes that we live in a society in which dying is not part of the business of living any longer, a materially valuing society where life is fun, and death is the end of fun. He also points out that death is often not the rosy ideal of an elderly person gently fading away surrounded by nearest dearest. In previous times with extended families living together, death was witnessed more in the home, and the not so rosy aspect would have been clear. More people do die in hospital now.

I am witnessing the home death where there is a lot of discomfort and very very little communication - above the practicalities. It also reveals to me the materialistic strangely prioritised society we are, where carers who come in and do essential help don't actually even receive minimum wage because their travel between clients is not paid, in a rural area this is truly ridiculous. Even the care of children, a vital job, is viewed as a lowly task in that women can go back to work and get some change from their wages after paying for child care (before anyone asks I am a feminist, will admit to it, though really believe in equality for all, but I do see a lot of inequality for women around the world).

Child care and care for the sick and dying should be the fundamental concern of a civilised country after all are fed, watered and housed.

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