This is surely the most wonderful institution north of London (where St Christopher’s Hospice was the first, founded in 1967 with St Luke’s the second, three years later). The “hospice movement” was started by the late Dame Cicely Saunders, and continued in Sheffield under Prof Eric Wilkes, Sheffield’s first professor of General Practice. Its overriding principle is to provide excellent palliative care, to the extent that “euthanasia” becomes totally unnecessary. Palliative care applies to a whole range of “terminal” conditions, not just to cancer, where cure is not the goal.
The palliative care we have seen Janet receive has been amazing, both medical, nursing, and spiritual care, from the chaplains, and from the staff, many of whom are practising Christians.
Janet has reached the last stage of her earthly journey, today being semi-comatose, not due to the medication, which has been carefully titrated to releive her pain, but due to the prgression of the cancer. She is breathing rapidly, mainly using the left lung (the main tumour is in the right lung), and is sleeping a lot, but still responding to our presence.
Last night I was able to stay with her, using a prepared bed made from the easy chair in the room (bedding tucked inside it), and will do the same tonight if she is still here.
I wrote the following poem the day before yesterday, reflecting on the language we use when someone is dying:
We said she was “going downhill”,
with pain, distress, and heavy breathing.
But in this Hospice, goals are different,
patients’ comfort is the sole aim.
In Bunyan’s terms, she’s climbing the hill
to the celestial city, the place where God dwells,
and where she will soon be with her Lord,
and will see Him face to face.
So it’s the exact opposite of downhill:
she’s making progress uphill,
as this life slips softly away,
and the next begins, eternal, glorious, and unending.
We rejoice with her, so kind, she is our mother,
my wife and our dearest friend,
but soon she’ll be in glory, as she climbs
ever upwards, to reach the goal.
August 29th 2018