The Joy Club member Mary Gorman reflects on her recent moments of altruism, inspired by our January theme of giving back…
When I read about the theme for this month, I was drawn to how my journey began. I remembered back over the past thirty years and – in particular – the last twenty years of being a Practising Therapist.
I was widowed at the age of forty-one and left with three teenagers to bring up. I had to work full-time Monday to Friday to provide, but I found the weekends lonely. It seemed to me that weekends drew families together and often friends would be busy with them. As my teenagers had gone through a difficult time losing their father, I encouraged them to go out and have fun at the weekends. A good friend of mine sent me a notice that said the local hospice was looking for volunteers and suggested that I have a look at it. I applied and was accepted, especially as I said I was only available at the weekend. My duties included making drinks for the visitors and chatting with the patients and their families.
Friends and family used to say “Mary, how wonderful that you are doing this after all that you have been through.” I would smile, but secretly feel a little guilt at accepting this praise, as I knew I had come to do this work to fill a lonely gap in my own life. However, as time went on I gained so much from this experience. Those dark lonely moments, the sharing of a woman sitting by her husband’s bed, knowing that he had only a few weeks left, wanting to know the age-old question. “How am I going to cope”? I would sometimes suggest we play a game of cards or a board game. Other times I would encourage her to tell me some stories about where she grew up. The richness of those special moments was incredible.
Some of the most precious times would be when I was asked if I could sit with someone who had no family or friends as they journeyed towards the next world. I remember, with great fondness, one gentleman who was Irish. In the last few days he spoke fondly of his Irish roots. We laughed together and – at times – we cried together especially on one occasion when he said to me
“Mary, my mother came to me last night and told me that she would be waiting for me”. He went on to say “Sure, Mammy, I have a lovely Mary here with me”. His Mum’s name was Mary. He died during that night, but this memory is forever printed in my heart.
Out of the volunteering, I was approached by the new counselling service that had sprung up in the Hospice and invited to train as a counsellor. I did and went on to become a relationship counsellor for the next twenty years. I had been working with many complex cases including domestic violence, severe mental health issues and many others. I retired in June last year and I have now taken up creative writing.
I thoroughly enjoyed my years as a qualified counsellor. However, walking back through those memories has helped me recognise the richness in just listening. My question, I now ask myself, is shall I return to my roots?
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