This month’s extract from The Cure For Sleep for subscribers on Substack looked at time, drawing on my perspectives as a former hospice scribe. I then asked readers to tell me a short true tale about when time has taken on a strange new dimension for them. Here is where any responses will be showcased.
ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL in my second life came from those darkest hours in the car park, when I chose time as my teacher, and decided to apprentice myself to it.
This element in which we are all of us at swim or adrift – natural resource that can’t be dammed for future use, or gathered back in (both of which I’d always tried to do, even as it ran through my fingers). And it occurred to me then that there was one place where my small, spare ration would have true use and value: among those who had very little left. People who were coming close to their end: they may have a thirst to speak frankly, and by listening I might meet my own need for a deeper communion than could be got in day-to-day talk with colleagues and friends.
Once my daughter was settled in nursery, I drove out beyond the bounds of town to the region’s hospice to explain and offer myself: They had a befriending programme where volunteers were trained to give an hour of respite to those caring for terminally ill family members, but might they consider me for a role of my own creation? To let me be alongside any patients pained by regret, as I had been? An encounter different in kind to the slow and steady talking cure of counselling; a discomfort not touched by opiates from the palliative care team; what perhaps the chaplains there did for those who were still comfortable with people of faith? Me as a lay version of that? A person able to simply sit and listen to difficult things that could not be fixed. There to help the dying preserve in words moments of joy that were strong in mind as they got ready to go?