Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Walking with Helena

Image result for palliative careMuch of my moodling these days is taking place at Helena's bedside. As much as we all want her to recover from her pneumonia, her 84-year-old kidneys are failing, and without constant oxygen, her blood oxygen level drops rapidly. It seems that she's on her final journey.

I've spent ten hours with her over the last five days, singing and playing my guitar, chatting with others who visit, telling and hearing stories about her. She is resting comfortably in palliative care, still hearing all that goes on around her, I suspect, and gently engaging in the mysterious work of dying.

What has touched me most deeply is how everyone who comes interacts with her. Helena is alone in the world as far as having blood relatives goes, but she is definitely not alone thanks to L'Arche. On Sunday afternoon, I watched as three young women and one young man fussed over her, applying lotion and powder, smoothing her hair, moistening her lips, kissing her forehead and speaking so tenderly that she must know that she is beloved. We prayed over her, sang her favourite songs, and laughed about things she has said and done in the past, celebrating our friend as best we could, while she is still with us.

She is on a journey, and we are walking with her as far as we can. It's just the last few steps that are only hers to take.

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