The “Between Times”: A Creative Breathing Space

between-times

I like the “between time”; in between Christmas and the New Year. I regularly work this period and, somehow, it gives me a chance to reflect. It is as if the pace of work slows down a bit. There is still work to be done but there also seems to be time to breathe.

With the rush and pressure of Christmas over, there is, dare I say it, a sense of relief around. And because of that breathing space there are new opportunities.

And so I had just walked into the brisk air outside the main entrance, heading for somewhere else, when I rushed past an elderly lady shuffling in on her own. “Just keep going” said one voice. “See if she wants help!” said the other. I asked if she needed an arm to assist her, and she did. “Who are you? The arm assistant,” she asked. I assured her that “arm assisting” was what I did best but that I was also the Chaplain of the Hospital.

Her appointment was down the longest corridor of the hospital and, as we ever so slowly made progress, she told me about herself. She told of her diagnoses of Parkinson’s Disease and macular degeneration. She mentioned her family and their care for her. She spoke about deciding that now was the time to give up her home and transfer to sheltered accommodation.

And I thought what a courageous, inspiring and determined lady she was.

Having reached our destination, helped her book in, and made sure she was OK to get back home, I said my goodbyes.

I know it’s not a huge thing but it lingers with me now. And I’m so glad I listened to the one voice and not the other. Maybe that is what the breathing space of the “between time” offers to us.

By the time you read this, that time will have come and gone. Welcome to 2017! Happy New Year! New hopes, plans, dreams, possibilities. And so it all kicks off again.

But maybe, once in a while, we should allow ourselves to drift into that breathing space again; we never know what we might discover.

Mary, Joseph and the BabyCatcher – For My Midwife Friends

midwives-hands

You will know that Midwives are amongst my favourite people. And so this Christmas, with the Big Day approaching, I thought I would pay homage to them. This is especially the case because my Granddaughter Emilia was born last year at the marvellous Meadow Birth Centre at Worcestershire Royal Hospital and is soon to be one year old. In fact, the miracle of her birth has made me look at things in a different way. Sometimes that is what it takes.

And so I found myself wondering if Mary, the young woman with child (so far from her hometown with an older husband) had a midwife. The Bible story makes no mention of one, but in a community where social networks were close knit, surely someone came to this young women’s aid.

But where should we look?

Well it so happens that there is an ancient text called the Protevangelion of James which says that Joseph sought and found a Hebrew midwife. And here is the passage itself:

9. And the midwife went along with Joseph and stood in the cave [where Mary was about to give birth]
10. Then a bright cloud overshadowed the cave, and the midwife said, This day my soul is magnified, for my eyes have seen surprising things, and salvation is brought forth to Israel.
11. But suddenly the cloud became a great light in the cave, so that their eyes could not bear it.
12. But the light gradually decreased, until the infant appeared, and nursed at the breast of his mother Mary.
13. Then the midwife cried out and said, How glorious a day is this, wherein my eyes have seen this extraordinary sight!

It fact you can see her in the icon below.

nativity-icon

There she is in the bottom right hand corner bathing the new baby.

And it got me thinking. How amazing to be the midwife whose hands and skill helped Jesus to enter the world and who gave comfort to Mary. How amazing that her hands were the first to touch this precious child.

A Midwife in the right place at the right time: at (for Christians at least) a pivotal point in human history.

But then I thought of my daughters Midwife Lucy. Helping her through labour. With her skill and hands. Her hands which gave the first, albeit brief, human contact to baby Emilia. So I want to join in with the words of this Hebrew Midwife: “How glorious a day is this wherein my eyes have seen this extraordinary sight!”

It’s funny but I don’t know many jaundiced and cynical midwives…I guess there are some but I haven’t met them at my hospital. I have met skilled staff who, even on their difficult days, catch something of the miracle of each new birth. And so to my friends Nick, Judi, Louise, Bryony, Lucy, Norma, Pam, Renate, Davidica, Deb, Rachel, Mel, Trudy and so many many more that I could name, I thank you. You are special people with special hands doing a special job.

Voices 4 Health Charity Concert

charity concert-flyer

The Choir will be staging their own Charity Concert on 15th July at 7:30p in St, Peter’s Baptist Church, so anyone who would like to come and hear them is welcome. They are raising money for the Meadow Birth Centre and The Faye Turner Suite (a facility for parents who have had a stillbirth) at Worcester Royal. Tickets are £5 and available from revdavidsouthall@aol.com or available on the door.

http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/14605586.NHS_choir_will_raise_funds_for_those_who_have_suffered_stlllbirth/

Harry Turner: Unstinting Champion and Chairman at Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust

harry

Here is my Chaplain’s blog Article for the Worcester News on 7th March 2016

In a scrapbook filled with photos I was invited to write my piece on the occasion of the Hospital Chairman Harry Turner stepping down from his role after 6 years. Harry has left a legacy of putting patients at the centre of all we do, and of investing in the staff. He spent way more time in this place than his contracted hours; cared passionately for the Hospitals of Worcestershire; was vilified and suffered personal insults from so-called pressure groups who should be ashamed of themselves (Yes you know who you are!); and did it all with dignity and professionalism. It’s wrong that he has gone, but then small minded politicians and NHS mandarins will have their way. So what to write in that scrapbook – well, here goes:

“Harry,
What japes we’ve had. Who can forget you, somewhat disturbingly, shaving off my moustache at the end of Movember, or the Paddle, Plod, Pedal where you were there to “ jeer” us on early in the morning. Or, of course, the Rainbow Run when I beat you convincingly.
There are other things too. Your unstinting championing of the Chaplain’s Blog and the Voices 4 Health and COPD Choirs. You really get it that your staff matter and investing in them pays dividends. And for us to be invited to sing for HRH The Princess Royal will take some beating.
In all the time that our paths have merged I have never known you not attend one of my “madcap” schemes, even when it meant shifting your diary commitments, in order to engage with staff and make the Chairman visible…and I still chuckle at having the chance to soak you in the Ice Bucket Challenge. What other Trust Chair would have done that?
You know that I am sad that you are going but the machinations of the NHS have always been a mystery to me. All I know is that the impact you have had on the Acute Trust is immeasurable; and, as importantly, I have valued your friendship.
With many happy future days to you and yours,
David”

The Letter in My Baby’s Coffin

tear

 

This week I met a courageous woman who has now lost three babies. I have taken the previous two funeral and will be taking the third soon. She has written a letter to her daughter Darcie which will be placed with her in the coffin along with a teddy bear.  She has given me permission (along with the babies’ names) to share the letter with you to give us some insight into what it is like for her. I hope you find it beautiful, touching and it causes you to utter a few prayers for her.

“Hey Baby Girl. I’m so sorry Darcie! It’s all my fault again. I hope your brother and sister met you at the gates and you have all settled down up there with Nanny and Granddad. I want to say I love you all so much. It hurts me so much to know you are so far away from me. I will be with you, Thea and Willow as soon as I can. I was hoping and praying so much that I would have you here with me – I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I wish I did. I just think you were all too special to be here. I know I would have been a great Mommy to you all. I did get to hold you in my arms for a few hours and it was the best feeling ever. I couldn’t believe how perfect you were and you looked so much like your Daddy. Please all look after each other up there till I get there. I promise you all I will do my best to get you a headstone and clean the grave up. There’s not much I can say my baby girl. I think I’m hurting too much. I love you Darcie, Thea and Willow with all my heart. I will see you soon my angels. Love your Mommy xxxxxxxxxxxxx.”

And now with tears in my eyes, I will stop writing and say a prayer for this brave woman and her beautiful babies.

Go Well “Gentle Friend”

harry and charlie

Today a member of our family went to sleep. When I first met him I knew that he was someone who could be completely trusted. His eyes held wisdom beyond his age and his gentleness was evident in his gaze. He has proven himself to be strong, courageous, and a good friend. But with deteriorating health his time to go on the next leg of his journey had come.

So at 12 O’Clock, in an act of kindness and love, denied to many others, the vet came and put our huge, strong, tender horse, Harry, to sleep.

Now if you are not an animal lover then I give you permission to “tut”. But your “tutting” only means that you have not yet experienced the strong and beautiful bond that forms between a human and their horse. I have seen that bond between Harry and my daughter Charlie, his owner, carer, devotee, lover, confidant and friend. A bond that has been there from the moment that she met him, which has developed with Charlie and has infected the entire family. Harry taught me to ride- trusting him completely. And he always did his best to please us, but especially Charlie.

Now, if love could have saved him then Charlie’s love would have; but love couldn’t save him. His laminitis (a serious condition in his legs) was too severe. So in a final act of love we did what Harry couldn’t do and took the painful, heart-breaking decision for his journey to end.

We have been overwhelmed by the support and love for Harry and Charlie on Social Media from horsey and non-horsey friends alike. So much love from people who understand and have been there. And, of course, we have so many wonderful memories; of his galloping; his life; the joy he gave and the love he received.

And I will never forget his wisdom; the way he looked at me and understood me at the deepest of levels. I will never forget how he changed our lives and my daughter’s life, adding quality and depth.

So for now, GO WELL, GENTLE FRIEND.

Thanks from an Insufferably Proud Grandad (that ME!)

emilia grace999

“Which service?”

Ambulance please,” I said with panic rising in my voice.

My daughter Suzy’s waters had broken at 4am that morning and by one O’clock she was having contractions really close together. We had tried to get her in the car, but by that time she couldn’t down the stairs.

The operator stayed on the phone and the crew arrived within 10 minutes. Their control, calmness, professionalism and care was exemplary – and with loads of reassuring words and some gas and air Suzy floated down the stairs and straight to the Meadow Birth Centre.

We were met at the door by Lucy, who calmly took control and showed Suzy to the Violet Room. It is a pretty room, beautifully decorated, with a huge birthing pool in the centre. Alison, Suzy’s Mom and also the baby’s Dad, were the birth partners and stayed with her. And in just two hours beautiful Emilia Grace was born.

My other children and I went up to welcome her to the world at about 4pm and she was already looking at the new world, and her mom, contentedly with beautiful big blue eyes.

My midwife friend Alison took over care and from about 9:00pm, I was alone with Suzy and Emilia as we were being prepared for discharge home. Alison was calm, professional, caring, interested and happy for us as well; and she made sure she took some photos of us putting Emilia’s leaf on the Birth Centre Tree to mark her birth.

Mom and Baby are doing well at home but I can’t stop thinking about that day. Usually my stories are second-hand; but for this once I was not the Chaplain, just David, a proud Dad and Granddad, watching in awe at the superb treatment we were getting from people who know their stuff.

So from a normal Worcester family, we want to give our heartfelt thanks to the Ambulance crew and Meadow Birth Centre staff for the best treatment we could have possibly asked for. Amazing is too small a compliment. We will always be in your debt!