Secrets of the dying

Secrets of the dying

If there’s one patient I’ll always remember with special fondness, it’s Ron.

Ron was in his late 80s, a bushman who valued his independence.

He wouldn’t let Hospice visit him at home because he didn’t want the neighbours to know he was sick. But he did agree to me visiting him at the pub, so I would meet with him every Tuesday at the Devonport Tavern.

My very first visit was on a Friday, and I remember standing at the doorway thinking, ‘What am I doing?’

I hadn’t been in a bar since before I was married.

The bar was thick with smoke, and there were two TVs showing a boxing match; people were roaring.

I asked the barmaid where I could find Ron and she pointed to a man by the jukebox.

Ron was such a regular he had his own plaque on the wall and his own chair beneath it.

Our first conversation was very difficult because there was so much noise and he was more interested in the boxing match.

We agreed that next time we would meet on a Tuesday when it was quieter.

Over a five-week period, Ron became more and more frail, so I got him to come to Hospice Daycare once a week, where he could have a decent meal and meet other patients.

One day I had a call from the barmaid asking me to come because Ron did not seem well.

I arrived to find Ron looking dreadful.

I took him home and we called his GP, who recommended he go into a Hospice inpatient unit.

At that stage we didn’t have one, so we rang St Joseph’s Hospice.

At St Joseph’s, Ron sat on the bed and pulled out his mouth organ. He had always promised to play it for me, but when he put the instrument to his lips, no sound came.

We both cried.

Ron died a couple of days later.

All the bar regulars were at his funeral, and that was just the most amazing tribute to a wonderful Devonport character.

My Hospice role was honestly the best I ever had.

It was tough at times, but knowing I made a difference has given me immense satisfaction.

The depth of Orla’s belief system

defied all logic

and made what she saw, true.

Orla and Brian were devout Irish Catholics.

They shared a very strong faith and had crosses all over their house.

I had been calling in regularly to help Orla care for Brian, who had cancer.

On this particular day, I was on a rostered day off, but Orla found my number and called me and said, “You’d better come quickly, it’s time.”

I said, “Orla, I’m off duty. But tell me, what is Brian doing?”

She said, “He’s sitting at the table eating his porridge.”

I said, “Well, Orla, I can probably reassure you that Brian’s not dying today.”

She said, “He is. He’ll be going at three o’clock today. I’ve prayed to the Holy Spirit. I’ve prayed to the Novena of the Precious Blood that he will have a holy death and I will be told. And she told me Brian’s going today at three o’clock.”

Orla had called their only son and told him to be there to say goodbye to his father.

I stopped by to reassure them and saw that Brian was fine, so I went on my merry way.

The next morning I got to work… only to learn that Brian had passed away at exactly three o’clock the previous afternoon, just as Orla had said he would.

To my absolute surprise, she had been right, and I had been wrong.

I’ll never forget Orla.

She’s affected me hugely over the years in regard to her practice and her total belief in the hereafter.

The reality for me was that her belief was so strong that it came to fruition.

And I don’t think it would have mattered what religion she followed – whether it was Hindu or Buddhism or whatever – it was the depth of her belief system that defied all logic and made what she saw, true. Continue reading

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