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Zach Moss 14 August 2015

Spreading the word in Lancashire …

This week, Janet Ross (Project Coordinator for My Life, My Decision in Lancashire) tells us what a day at work looks like for her. I woke up on Monday morning with the distinct impression that I must have slept for three months and it was November. It was cold and grey and the rain was persisting down. I checked the mobile phone and yes it was July, and I was still in Lancashire. Life is tough sometimes. Hi Ho. Off to work I go… I have been working for the My Life, My Decision for nearly six months now and no two days are the same. Part of the job is to meet people and organisations to promote the service we provide to help plan for future care and treatments. On the calendar today is a visit to my own Parish Church.
The church is holding a ceremony to consecrate a new burial ground so I agreed with my Project Lead that I would attend this event; after all, it’s not every day you get the chance to ask a Bishop about his end-of-life planning!
I spent the weekend trying on hats and gloves and practicing my curtsey but finally decided to just go as myself. Always a good plan. The weather grew steadily more wintry as the day went on. There were road-works on the M6 motorway so a visit to a client with a diagnosis of dementia was particularly nerve-wracking. Fortunately I know the back roads in this area very well and arrived on time for a useful appointment with the delightful man and his lovely wife and they were touchingly appreciative of the advice I could offer and the issues I suggested they give some thought to. I left feeling so glad that they were finally managing to have the conversations with each other that they had previously been afraid to start. After a harrowing return journey , the problems with the roadworks were now spilling over into the surrounding areas, but I arrived at the church gate a few seconds before 4 o’clock – I had to skip lunch, so thanks to God for creating bananas! The Bishop stepped out of the Church, Crozier in hand, and it stopped raining.2015-07-28 10.09.26                           His red robes seemed to glow against the backdrop of the fresh greenery and the wet, grey stones of the cemetery. He was followed by his assistant, clothed in purple and white embroidered robes, a lawyer in his wig and black gown, the minister in his white and purple robes and members of the congregation carrying ceremonial sceptres and all dressed very smartly for this special occasion. It crossed my mind that maybe I was dreaming about being in a novel by Anthony Trollope but I pinched my arm a few times and, yes, this enchanting scene was actually rea l. The plot of land was given to the church back in the fifties and today the graveyard is getting full, hence the need to expand and the ceremony taking place. So the Lawyer described the land and what it would (and would not) be used for. The Bishop said prayers and the congregation responded. Then we all walked the boundary of the plot saying prayers and the Bishop drew a large cross on the ground with his Crozier. We all stood in silence for a few minutes and looked at the view. This place is about 30 miles from the coast but we could clearly see the sea at Blackpool sparkling in the distance. On a clear day we can see the Welsh mountains, the Isle of Man and Helvellyn. For a few poignant minutes, we watched the activity of the Lancashire plain. It was criss-crossed by tiny cars bustling along roads,  but they were too far away for us to hear anything but leaves rustling and birds singing, The landscape sat under the arc of a dramaticsky of heavy dark clouds interspersed with patches of blue allowing rays of sunshine to light up patches of bright green. Peace descended. The weather forecast had predicted thunder for the Chorley area that afternoon but it didn’t materialise – that would have finished me off! We ambled slowly back through the graveyard to the Church and I caught snatches of conversations between people talking about their friends and relatives who are buried nearby, and their childhood memories of those people. We were getting a little bit chilled by this time but back inside the church building was the most welcome sight of steaming teapots arranged on hand- embroidered table cloths and an astonishing display of home-made cakes. Well by that time everyone was thoroughly in the mood to talk about matters relating to the end of life. I had some relaxed conversations and I introduced the My Life, My Decision to as many people as possible. The rain hammered down on the roof making quite a spooky sound. I came away with an enquiry from the Women’s  Institute, a couple of individual referrals and an invite to a Gravetalk event in Accrington. And I ate four cakes! I could have carried on but didn’t want to seem greedy… What a wonderful day. Finally, and just in case any readers start to suffer from job envy, I can tell you that the rest of the week was spectacularly difficult. However, the inspiration I get from days like these and the people I meet and work alongside gives me the strength to carry on and makes me so grateful to have this job and be blessed with the gift of time to do it.

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