Sunday, 30 November 2008
World AIDS Day....
Home from the service at MCC River of Life in Dorchester.......
Shattered - didn't realise just how much it would take out of me! (this photo is from 'Dorset For You' website....)
I said my piece and yes - I blubbed. I wonder if it will go onto the website for all to hear? I didn't 'lose-it' totally, but had to have a couple of really long pauses for composure.....and could feel the room literally full of people praying for me to keep going. Serving Communion afterwards helped the calming process. Phew!
This is what I said: hear it here!
The names we are going to share here today are those who spent their last days, hours and minutes at a place that was ‘Sanctuary’ in Bournemouth. A Hospice, dedicated to the care of those living with HIV/AIDS.
These names are from the ‘Sanctuary’ memorial book. [They scrolled up on the overhead].
To some of us those we remember now were our friends and fellows.
To others here, they may be just names – but they are significant none the less.
The ‘Sanctuary’ truly represented the nature of the word; also the deeds of Simon of Cyrene – the Good Samaritan of the Bible, whose name was used when the original Trust Fund for ‘Sanctuary’ was founded, by John-Luke Edwards.
Simon - if you remember, helped a wounded stranger when those of his own faith and social group wouldn’t.
The ‘Sanctuary’ was much more than an ‘organisation’ for all those who worked lived and died there.
‘Sanctuary’ was a place of spirit, where real and reality – often the most painful of realities, were held in the safety of non-judgement; a significant place where friendships and trust were tested too; sometimes to the bounds of breaking point.
A place where the simple – no, the complex love of humanity, was experienced in action, through service of staff and volunteers and in the very deaths of those who came through the doors; knowing on arrival that they were probably there...only to die. It was this reality that bound us then and continues to bind us in memory even now.
I would like to read a couple of quotes sent to me by Mags Smith – Patient Affairs manager at ‘Sanctuary’. She said “...how do you some [sic.] it up eh xxx It binds me to you Mark and to Neil..[and of course to John-Luke..hang on...”:
From the book A Soldier of The Great War:
The war was still in him and it would be in him for a very long time to come, for soldiers who are bloodied are soldiers for ever they never truly fit in..... That they cannot forget, that they do not forget, that they never allow themselves to heal completely, is their way of expressing their love for those friends who have perished, they will not change because they have become what they have become to keep the fallen alive...[Mark Helprin 1992 Avon Books].
“And another...The aim of the Sanctuary was to provide care..what greater pupose is there; No obstacle should ever be put in the way of caring..Gary Wilmot”
‘Sanctuary’ was also about life - living - in spite of the awfulness of AIDS and it was a safe space in which the dying and the living confronted both the best and the worst aspects of that life together. In those days before the drugs – the illness was very apparent, both physically and emotionally.
The fear surrounding AIDS was sometimes tangible....
Obvious you might think in those who were ill, but then, this fear was also endemic in wider society; where people who couldn’t or wouldn’t understand presented many very unwell people with several extra problems. Rejection loneliness and isolation were real in the lives of some of the folk who came to ‘Sanctuary’. Friends, family and workmates had often disappeared; in some cases a much loved partner had died previously.
For some tho, families and friends were there for the last journey and ‘Sanctuary’ encompassed them too – embracing them with food friendship, emotional support and open door visiting.
‘Sanctuary’ was therefore a dynamic flux of humanity, nevertheless, isolation beyond its walls was palpable and at that time, very much part of the AIDS tragedy.
‘Sanctuary’ cared beyond that isolation and was there when others wouldn’t or couldn’t hold thinning hands, care for the basic physical needs, or cope with the ravages of body or mind. ‘Sanctuary’ nurses and the ‘Buddy’ network were there 24/7. No one was friendless or unsupported. Dr. Gillett worked well beyond the call of duty and ‘Sanctuary’ - just was – for a short time, quite a remarkable place to be.
MCC was there too.....Neil Thomas as Pastor of Bournemouth laughed and cried alongside clients, friends and family and staff.
For some of those in the memorial book, I was also there as the very end came. Sometimes, with Neil and other carers, I was at the last bedside vigil as a friend and supporter but it was me who in my work capacity cared for many of those named here after they died.
So I remember all of them with love – but also with gratitude for allowing me to share in their journey and for the trust they placed in me as a professional – knowing exactly what that trust actually represented.
But I also remember sharing long nights with the nurses and days of cooking green chicken for Alec – because he wouldn’t eat anything else!
These are the names from ‘Sanctuary’ - they are but a drop in the ocean of World AIDS.........