I had never thought I would find a hospice a beautiful place. I heard the phrase today, “End of Life Care” and it had reminded me of watching my friend’s final bravely-fought battle. The brightest light in the whole experience for me was the hospice. So much was going on in my life at the time and yet whenever I had walked down to the hospice to visit my friend I had found peace.
It sounds odd to say I miss visiting the hospice but I do. It was a beautiful place. Not a place of sadness and death but a place of peace and even occasionally laughter. My friend was made to feel like the most precious, important person on the planet. I never saw one person treat her with anything other than kindness, dignity and respect.
At the time I had determined I wanted to write biographies for some of the patients. I did contact the authorities but that was as far as it had gone before the general “busy-ness” of life had taken over. Fortunately I had already put together the story of my friend’s family over the years- a deeply touching powerful tale. A story of Irish survivors of the terrible famine which had engulfed that country and had taken a million lives. They fortunately were also a family who had had the foresight to record at least in part, of the story themselves(written by somebody who had escaped The Irish Potato Famine as a child).
He described children as “mere animated skeletons”looking for food and men and women dying on the roadside and in the fields. He witnessed many harrowing scenes as Irish families were evicted from their homes, which were then burned. He had recounted these stories to his children and grandchildren, here in Australia.
This is believed to be the oldest known photo of a survivor of the Potato Famine.Here
Description of The Famine(from The Colonial Times, Hobart) 23rd October,1849.
An extract from a letter sent to the editor of The Dublin Evening Packet:
Her children got nettles.Showed me a bag about the size of a small pillow-case, full of nettles This took two children all the day to get so full. The poor people left few nettles about, and the children now often had to fight others for these! The way they cooked them was to boil them in an old broken crock ; and Whelan gave a small tinful of his meal,about one half-pint,to shake over the nettles.Her children and herself and her husband had no other food..
One story of how Irish came to Australia: Irish emigrants come to Australia
Assembling an intimate account of the family’s life in Australia had been relatively simple. Thanks to the wonderful free resource of Trove,(Please note Trove may still be a useful free resource, even if your ancestry is not Australian.) I had learned of their lives in their newly-adopted country in great detail. My friend had been able to present to her mother, whilst she, (her mother) had still been alive, those reports, some of which had touchingly named her mother, grandfather and great grandfather personally. I have had many moments of self-doubt devoting myself to genealogy but one of my rare moments of truly recognising the value of such research, had occured, learning of the memories, which had been jogged and the closeness which had been fostered, at least in part due to the sharing of a few newspaper articles.
Painting classes did not go well for me, I had actually managed to blow up an overhead projector among other things (needless to say I do not think I will become the next Rembrandt) but the one thing I did take away from the whole experience, was the discovery that my instructor, had also worked at a hospice. Up until that point I had had no idea that people might be given artistic opportunities in a hospice. I had never expected to find myself by visiting a hospice but I think in many ways I did. If anybody is trying to put together the story of somebody who is approaching the “end of their life”please feel free to contact me, I will attempt to help if I possibly can. I also cannot stress enough to record people recounting their story themselves(I found this example on Youtube). You will be leaving a great gift to future generations.