I arrived at the conference centre in Northampton at 5.30 pm last Tuesday, for the Spirit of Caring, Spirituality and Well-being in End Of Life Care conference, run by LOROS. Cousin Maddy was waiting for me; Cousin Maddy had arranged to take time off work and home to come and help me to set up A Graceful Death, she knows how much work there is in doing each exhibition and offered to help. And she is good, very good, at setting up and thinking outside the box. We set about unpacking the exhibition from the car into the room where we were to exhibit. This is where being part of a conference is the bees knees. The young man from the conference venue assigned to us to help with the setting up kept longing to bring light and joy into our lives - we would say, can we have a 23" screen to play the film on? When he returned with a brand new one from the stock room, we would say, oh but may we have some really big earphones to go with it? In purple? And off he would rush to the stock room and come back with purple earphones. We need some Chinese lamps and an elephant we would say and whoosh. Off he goes to the store cupboard to get us a Chinese lamp and an elephant. Maddy mentioned tea. I'll get you some! said our conference genie and off he goes to fetch a tray of tea in a teapot, milk, and so on. There will be two more of us to help you tomorrow, said this glorious creature, and your wish is our command. Good Lord, said Maddy, three conference genies! Let us write a list and leave it on the white board so we remember what we want tomorrow. I did this, and to remind me of why I wrote the list (more coloured pins, another small table, some display stands, a holiday home in the Lake District, all my Christmas shopping etc) I wrote it under the name of the conference genie on duty the next morning. I hurried into the exhibition space at 8,30 the next day, as we only had a few hours to complete everything, only to find the genie had been in at 7am, seen the list, clicked his heels and gone off to find everything on it. And then, he had more or less finished the display of brochures, fliers, tissues, stuff. I walked in and everything had been done. I saw you had left me a list, he said, and rushed to do your bidding. Thank you conference genies. May you come with me everywhere I go, and may my life always be this easy.
We had spent till 1am, getting it all in order. Or perhaps Maddy spent till 1am getting it all in order. I unwrapped the bubble wrap, pointed to places, asked our conference genie to bring us a table, then another table, then some more tea, then to sort out the film to run on a loop on the big screen, and so on. While Maddy, little creature that she is, was climbing onto tables to find ways of exhibiting my art in the best way possible for the exhibition and me, I helped her by telling her I was going to find some more drawing pins and that I needed to find a pen. Maddy did a lot, and I helped her.
|I wanted to help Maddy but someone had to take the photograph|
All the time that we were setting up, I was aware that I still had to give my talk. I was due to start the proceedings off at 2.30, and as the first speaker set the mood for the day. Setting the mood for the day with paintings of death and dying, I reasoned, will be either a very good thing, or a very bad thing. Maybe, I began to think, as Maddy worked hard and I ate chocolate, I have nothing to say. Maybe I won't remember anything. Maybe I never really knew anything anyway. But we all know that is rubbish, and even if I don't follow a plan, even if all I do is tell stories of funny things that have happened to me while working with the dying, I can fill an hour. I may be asked to leave the conference early, but it is not likely. I did speak, and I did tell people what I thought of things, and then I showed some of the paintings on a big screen from my computer. It was very effective. I think it was quite hard to be in the audience and seeing these images for the first time, and I have had feedback that a few people were upset. Maddy got up and said a few words too, because she has been on the AGD journey with me since the beginning, and also Sam Reynolds, Soul Midwife and dear friend, spoke of the use to which she puts images of the paintings in training her Care Home staff in Soul Midwifery. Sam, and Paul Blaker (another Soul Midwife and friend) have set up a very simple and effective model of training for soul midwifery for carers and care homes. Go to www.soulcarers.com and see. Sam and Paul are inspirational. Take it from me, and we now know that I can fill an hour not talking rubbish, so I am reliable and the boss.
I have two new paintings for the exhibition. Caroline Soar -
So now, I am writing this in bed, it is Friday morning, and it is time to start the day. Tonight I pack up and go home. It is my youngest son's 16th birthday today, and I am going to arrive at my 82 year old mother's house, where son is staying, late tonight with all my exhibition in the car, and gather him in my arms and tell him I love him. He is 6'5" tall. He will react as he always does, like a large puppy hound, and think Play! Mummy wants to play! and try his newest Judo move on me, over the shoulder and flat on the floor. Back to normal then, I will say, as I fly through the air.