Initially, my role was being her arms and legs. I made food, tidied her space and folded her clothes. I also did household tasks for her primary carer, Ingrid, and sometimes went shopping. As time went on my friend’s health deteriorated.
I generally showered her on my shift. A special moment of the day was when she allowed herself to be washed in the way she asked – the warm water over her back and sore bits, the soapy washer tenderly massaging her body and gently shampooing her hair when needed.
What was so beautiful was the true care that naturally came from my body.
Judith also cared for me, sending me off to buy a waterproof apron to keep myself dry. I would gently pat her dry and once she was back in bed and rested, I would moisturise her hands arms and face. Often I would play beauty therapist as well with the tweezers and little wax strips. We had lots of fun.
I loved Judith’s sense of humour and playfulness. We spoke of dying and Ingrid and I carried in her newly painted coffin to see if she liked it. She did.
I also spoke to her of her ashes and whether she would like them placed in crackers so they could go off with a bang!!! She laughed as she had made other plans for the disposal of her ashes.
What amazed me with this woman was how she cared for and supported herself in every way.
Some carers provided paid assistance while others worked voluntarily. It was a delight for me to work with her, joke and do whatever was needed at the time.
She would delight in having ‘couch time’ with Ingrid while enjoying little nut clusters I would make. Her food altered over time from lamb roasts or fish or chicken to soup, then to tiny amounts of saag, then water.
She used to have lunch in the living room. Whoever was there each day joined in and it felt like magic and ritual – setting the table and sharing a meal with her and Ingrid and sometimes Jill, another carer who was supporting Judith. The wheelie-walker now lay idle and the wheelchair became her means of getting about.
What I observed was a simple acceptance of letting go of what no longer served her. The same with her beautiful bed – when Judith needed more support Ingrid organised a hospital bed.
Judith inspired me and showed me all about true care.
It was a great foundation for me of true care and love, which I could bring to myself and others. From this experience I was inspired to study Nursing and Aged Care at TAFE, and I am now working as an Assistant in Nursing in community care. I appreciate the foundation of love that I experienced with Judith, Ingrid and the team.
What Judith showed me was not only total acceptance of what was happening in her body but the responsibility she took in putting all things in order for her departure e.g. her will, her coffin, the disposal of ashes and so much more.
Judith showed me True Care in action.
Susan C., Australia
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