As with the rest of the Hospice, volunteers play a key role in the spiritual care team. Judith Seaward had an ideal background when she stepped forward to join the team, having spent years assisting the part-time priest at her local Anglican church as a Reader – a lay person who is licensed to preach and lead worship.
But she emphasises that her work at the hospice does not necessarily follow a ‘religious’ agenda. This is her story,
My role is to help Liza wit her compassionate and supportive spiritual support of patients, their families and carers. This might include people of any faith or no faith at all. We don’t push anything. People who do not have a faith still like a conversation and have spiritual needs!
You can see strength, courage, forward thinking. We have had younger people who make a great impression through their cheerfulness and talk of their plans for the future even though they may never come to fruition. I remember one man who talked about his bucket list – travel plans, ambitions, hopes. I wanted to believe him too even if it was never going to happen.
People like to tell you the stories behind their family photos that they have at their bedside or even discuss plans for their funeral.
If they want to say prayers, I will do so with them. If they are not well enough to ask, the family will frequently still ask for prayers to be said. This can be offered with them or in the Quiet Room as they prefer. Some patients ask for Holy Communion and more formal support too. Of course we also call on local clergy as requested.
On my visits to the Hospice, I sometimes lead the daily Gathering in the Quiet Room with patients, usually from the Hospice Day Service. We will say prayers, have a reading from Bible, perhaps a poem and always listen to some music. People light a candle and may share who they are lighting it for. It is very moving and a highlight for me.
But much of Judith’s time is spent providing comfort and support on the In-Patient Ward.
She comments, ‘It is a time in people’s lives when they confront certain problems such as concerns over their family or worries about children or siblings who don’t get on. It’s our job to talk with them about these concerns but, mostly, simply listen. Hopefully we can help people to become at peace with themselves. And it reassures them that they are not alone. If we can give them the feeling of being comforted and loved by people beyond their immediate circle, and of God’s presence with them, it feels well worth doing.