Friday, 20 July 2012

Life Boards Sessions, Kit and Caroline. And Mum.

Today, I am hosting a Life Board session in my dining room.  I think this is a very good thing, and will help within A Graceful Death, and will help without A Graceful Death.  Life Boards help you to express what is inside you at this moment.  They are therapeutic, yes, and they are fun and totally absorbing.  This is what happens. I fill my table with wonderful things, feathers, sticky jewels, paints, poetry, paper, glue, scissors, butterfly shapes, images, textured paper, net, fabric and so on.  We cut, stick, arrange, create, make whatever feels right, onto a board.  When the session is over, it is wonderful to see quite how lovely the item we have created is.  It has to feel right all the time while you are making it, otherwise it won't work.  We chop and change, try a bit of fabric here, make some words there, layer images and think about colours and when you finish it, you have to say There. That's how I feel.  That's who I am.  When you look at it, you recognise it but you don't always know how you got there.

Eileen and Bette doing Life Boards in the sitting room.  The blue bum is incidental.  Bette is wearing a bit of pink netting, she is getting right down in there.
 Today's ladies are going to give me feedback, and after this session I will know how best to do Life Boards at the AGD (A Graceful Death) exhibitions.  I will also offer it generally as something that is very illuminating to those who do it, and to those who are bereaved and in despair, it can be very reassuring.  Gosh, they have said at the end of a session, did I do this?  I am not bad, not bad at all, if that is what I came up with.  It is lovely.  
Bette's Life Board.  Butterflies are Bette's thing at the moment.
Amanda's Life Board.  This is full of twinkles and layered textured paper  

another Life Board
Life Board sessions will be up and running soon for all of you.  They are excellent for anyone who wants to express something but doesn't know how.  They have been extremely good for grief and bereavement work. 

What is happening here in Bognor?  Indeed, what is happening here in Bognor.

A Graceful Death is at a new stage. I am expanding it to include workshops and talks from personally selected professionals, working with the dying.  These include the already very popular Poetry Workshops with Penny Hewlett, plus workshops and presentations on end of life Health Care, Therapies, Spiritual Care, Funerals, Music and I hope, Dance.

I am painting two new paintings too. One is of my dear friend Caroline and one is of a lady called Winnie, who has been joined to AGD by a very loving and experienced Soul Midwife and Care Home Manager, called Sam Reynolds.  Winnie was one of Sam's ladies and since Sam has trained all her staff as Soul Midwives for Care Homes, a lovely moment was captured of Winnie being gently accompanied by two care home staff as she died.  I never met Winnnie but I know and have seen the work that Sam does, and I am delighted to have Winnie with us.  Here is a website for Sam, she runs Soul Carers, training for Care Home Staff and anyone who cares full stop, actually.

Caroline, ah Caroline.  Caroline Soar was, is, a wonderful lady who touched so many people by her work and her presence.  Caroline was trained in all sorts of areas within nursing, ethics, the law, and spirituality and she lectured, gave talks and workshops, and was an inspiration.  She was personally engaged with all who needed her, and there were plenty of us.  She was loving, ridiculously lovely, funny and wise.  Caroline helped me with planning and organising AGD, such a good person to have on board.  Then the day I came back from my Soul Midwife training with Felicity Warner in Dorset (Felicity - another extremely good egg -, I had a message from Caroline saying that she didn't know how to tell me this, but she had cancer and it didn't look good.

Over the next few months, I changed from being an adoring fan to a loving friend and saw that apart from being a wise, strong and deeply popular lady, Caroline was terrified, facing death, and desperate not to leave her beloved partner Bette.  Caroline allowed me to see what it was like to be dying while in the prime of life.  Caroline, wonderful Caroline, wanted to be in AGD and gave me something of her soul for the exhibition.  And then, early one morning, when no one was expecting it and no one was looking, long before we expected it, she died.  She just died.  So now, with the help and participation from Caroline's partner Bette, I am painting a huge portrait of Caroline, days before she just ran out of this life full tilt, and I miss her.

If I miss Caroline, then Bette, Caroline's partner, misses her like the sun has stopped shining in the sky and time has stopped still.  My friendship and respect for Bette has grown;  Bette has done two Life Board sessions and has given me not only her time, but feedback and help.  We are thinking that when the painting of Caroline is done, Bette will write in her hand, Caroline's last text messages to her, of love and thanks, just before she died in the hospice.

A few days ago I had lunch in Dorset with Felicity Warner.  Let's just say that four and a half hours was not enough.  Did we talk?  Is the Pope a Catholic?  We talked, laughed, ate, and tried to fit into a teeny bit of earth time, enough to fill a galaxy of catching up and discoveries.  Felicity is the founder of the Soul Midwife movement, and is writing her new book on everything to do with Soul Midwifery for all to have and do.  ( A Soul Midwife is a spiritual and emotional companion for the dying.)  When I arrived at Felicity's course in Dorset last November 2011, my aunt Kit had just died (as I got into the car to leave Bognor, I heard of her death).  Aunty Kit was immortal in our, her nephew's and niece's, minds. It was not possible for Kit to be anything but alive.  Kit was exquisitely pretty, teeny, funny, naughty and clever and for ages I wished she was my mum instead of my real mum because she had different coloured wigs, false nails and false eyelashes.  And she let me wear them all.  And, Kit's feet were tiny so when I was about 8 or 9, I could wear her high heeled shoes and wigs, false eyelashes and false nails.  And Kit painted murals on her walls, and had a catapult to aim from the sixteenth floor of her Birmingham flat, at a dog that never stopped barking somewhere below. What the hell.  Obviously my mother didn't have these things (she had me and my three brothers, all four of us born within 5 years, she didn't get round to wigs and high heels) and Kit was meant to be my mum. Thing is, all her four hundred million nieces and nephews thought the same thing. So I arrived at Felicity's with the death of Kit in my heart. The day I arrived back from the course, I received Caroline's news of her cancer and the shortness of her life left.  However, teaching us to accompany the dying with love and compassion is Felicity's mission.  I just seemed to have been mystically accompanied from day one, at the beginning of my journey as a Soul Midwife, by people I would much rather have discussed it with only, than have to have to deal with their deaths in a practical hands on Soul Midwife way.  Back to my lunch with Felicity this week, it was inspirational, funny, revealing and great fun. Felicity will be giving a Soul Midwife workshop in St James's Piccadilly on December 13 from 2-5pm, and I will be helping.  Much like Anthea to Bruce Forsyth, I hope.  (AGD was exhibited over Easter 2011 at St James's Piccadilly.  Good memories.)

My mother has just called.  Is the blog about me?  she asked.  Am I in it?  No I said, it is about me.  Actually, she is in it and I feel a bit bad that she isn't taking a more starring role.  So I am going to put her in, linking it brilliantly to what I have been writing about.

My mother, with Kit's rock under which are buried Kit's ashes, in the corner of Duncton graveyard.  This is a secret location and only mother knows which rock to talk to.  Shine on, Mother. 

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