Those of you who read my post Impermanence will know why it is quite rare for me to write about my work away from writing. However, I felt compelled to share this post after I had what was quite a beautiful experience earlier this year. If you’ve read the post I referred to above, you will be aware that I have two jobs with the same organisation; one that is a part-time contract based in our main building, and the other, which is on an ad-hoc basis working in the community. So it happened, that whilst I was at my day job one Friday in February, I was asked if I would be able to work that evening; just three calls in the community.
Around half an hour before I was due to meet up with my colleague for the evening, I received information that we were to make an extra call. We had taken on another patient on an emergency basis; I must confess that when I read the patient notes I did not feel that the person would be long for this world. All of our calls were logistically well placed, so we didn’t have far to drive between each one. The emergency call was the last one; logistically, it fitted perfectly in that order, but also, because it was a new patient, you never know what you are going in to, so it made sense to deal with the “devil” that we knew first. The idea of a first visit is that you explain the service to the patient and any family members present (what they can expect, what we provide etc.), do what ever they need you to do at that time, then the following day the service “proper” starts.
It was dark and raining, and the property was in a village that neither me nor my colleague were familiar with. The first thing that happened was that sat nav took us up a dark country lane where there were no houses. We managed to find a turning place and drove back down to the village and parked up next to the phone box. The idea was to call the house and use the phone box as a land mark from which to work from. It was explained to us where the house was, but parking was at a premium along the narrow lanes, so we had to park some distance away from our destination. When we eventually got to the house, we were met on the steps by a teenager who informed us that the patient had indeed died around an hour previously.
In these cases we always ask if there’s anything they want us to do. Sometimes the family just want to be alone with their deceased relative. Other times, we perform a task called “last offices” that means we give the deceased person a wash and clean them up if necessary. It also involves putting fresh garments on them, if the family so desire, and combing the hair and positioning the body in a dignified way.
When we entered the house it was quite chaotic; there were many people milling around in various states of mourning, also several other comings and goings and to cap it all there was also two boisterous dogs. In all the chaos we asked if they wanted us to do anything and it was decided that we would simply wash the hands and face, brush the hair and position the deceased in a dignified way. Eventually, after a few minutes of people walking in and out of the room, we were left alone to carry out our work.
As we set about our task, I was suddenly aware of the most beautiful presence of spirit. It came very close and enfolded me as I went about my work. Regular readers will know that I advocate a non-dual existence, however, I also understand that while we are here in the world we will have the experience of duality. This particular experience demonstrated to me that the apparent “poor soul” who departed this life, was guided home by a Love whose beauty is way beyond the comprehension of the human mind. It was also interesting to note, that before we carried out last offices, a lady in the house (who I took to be the mother of the deceased) said to me, “I know she has gone to a better place.”