Retirement brings time to do interesting and worthwhile things. My role at EPC enables me to achieve this.
I have always been interested in family histories. Over the years I had put together booklets about my family and forebears for both my husband’s and my own family, full of collected facts, stories and photos.
A friend suggested that I write biographies for EPC. This sounded perfect – although at first, I was a little worried about the palliative care aspect, not having had much experience in that area, apart from when my mother was ill and died. But I strongly felt it was something that I could do. Mostly for the clients of course, but if I’m honest, also for myself.
The best thing about volunteering with EPC has been that I have been privileged to meet and record the life stories of twelve people. For me it has been a lesson in how the human spirit shines through. I have learned a great deal about what is important to us as humans, and what ultimately matters to people when they are facing the end of life.
The stories I have been told have been full of humour, struggle, pathos and love. Always interesting and sometimes startling. I have loved hearing them, sometimes through tears and often with laughter.
There has been so much I have learned, not just about personal lives, but also about the social history of our country. There have been stories of immigration, struggles through the Depression years, lives lived in the country and in the city, and lives lived adapting to cultural difference. Without exception, these have been fascinating.
I have been entrusted with deeply personal and emotional stories. Sometimes these are not included in the end, but the benefit for the client in telling the stories is something that I am glad about.
Often, I have seen a lift in mood during one of our sessions – a change in body language and tone of voice. Sometimes people feel very ill and may not want to have the interview, but once they get started the words flow and memories flood in. Sometimes they haven’t thought of something for years! They can become quite animated, even though ill.
The most challenging thing about volunteering with EPC is that lovely people die. It has been sad at times.
I have found that it is important to take care of myself. I take a step back and remind myself that each person was nearing death before I met them. The time I spent with them was just a part of that leaving. My role is not to change that, but to try to somehow ease the passing for them and for those they are leaving. It is not about me. It is not my family.
I continue with EPC because it feels really worthwhile.