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CEO Musings

Giving

July 1, 2017

Greetings to all

“Giving” is such a complex concept isn’t it?

We give care, we give our attention, we give a talk, we can have a giving nature; it’s a verb, adverb and a noun when it becomes a “gift”.

In a lengthy nursing career there have been countless times to witness giving writ large. From the devotion of families to sick or ailing patients, from organ donors giving (literally) the gift of life to a relative, from witnessing hundreds of nurses, carers and lifestyle staff who give of themselves every day—going that little bit further than needed—to fulfil what they see as their hearts’ duty towards another.

I marvel at the gift of time and care displayed by volunteers the brilliance of harnessing human compassion and the instinct to serve can never be praised enough. It is our life’s blood in Aged Care.

Often unrecognised because it is largely unseen, is that given to us all by the many volunteer members of Fairways various Boards over the years. The time, energy and (often) sheer drudgery inherent within the administrative and financial responsibilities of work at a Governance level is enormous; but without it we would cease to function; like a jet without its engine—kaput.

In another life at an old but wonderful facility, I was witness to a very different take on giving…

Sharon had finished uni, along the way she had gained a Personal Care qualification…so handy to get work whilst studying. She was an unusual girl, deep thinking and gentle but as steadfast as she was sensitive. I used to love studying her face at morning tea.

Though animated and bright there was something fragile there. The residents loved her—she was kind and attentive but fun as well.

Sharon had met Luke—each finding their soul mate. She shared the joy of her engagement. The residents clambered to see her ring, they would gaze at it then stare back at her face to drink in the glow of her happiness.

The wedding was discussed during staff breaks and residents had also shown keen interest; especially a small group of ladies caught up in the excitement and romance.

Bruce—one of only 3 men at the facility would make clucking noises and flap his arms like a chook—sending up all the females, but he would wink and grin, his banter all good natured and quite funny. A larrikin male is often very welcome in Aged Care where women predominate hugely in number. Some ratbaggery is a great foil to all the (fading) oestrogen in the air.

A week before the wedding I was working late and needed to check on something in the office adjacent to the lounge. Something made me stand stock still as—unusually—all lights were on and I thought I heard some strained whispers.

No-one could see me as the door to the almost deserted lounge was ajar. Only a small group of 4 or 5 ladies sat in a rough circle in the corner—they seemed hushed as if in anticipation.

And then she came in.

To a poorly suppressed gasp from the audience Sharon made her entrance, dressed in her wedding gown.

Now I doubt any garment is as charged with meaning as a bride’s gown. Symbol both of surrender and power it belies a transition from single life to that of shared responsibility.

It also anchors the whole ritual; the bride is pivotal in a way a groom seldom is. All eyes are on her. She sets the scene not only for that day but for the communal memory of the pairing and the hints and hopes of its future success.

I stood transfixed as 96 year old Maria—not a word of English ever spoken—softly cooed “Bella…Bella”. Ellen round and jolly, an eight year old in an aged body, clapped and rocked from side to side. Lottie and Cath sighed and swayed as Sharon swirled to show them how the silk softly fell against her slim and lithe body.

Later I found out that the dress was Sharon’s grandmothers—impeccably stored away in the hope of another in the female line wearing it on her special day. (Sharon’s mother was unable to oblige as the waist looked to be less than 20 inches in circumference!)

So the petite and ethereal-looking Sharon stood before these women. She had pinned her long hair up and with her veil in place she looked truly radiant.

Gently Sharon moved closer to each woman and invited them to feel the light-as-air silk and gaze at the exquisite detail of the gown, which though simple was beautifully cut, with rows of self-covered silk buttons down the back and at the tapered cuffs.

Brides seldom let another see their gown save for mothers and the closest of female relatives or bridesmaids. It is one of the very few traditions—along with other nuptial etiquette—which exists in our times of hugely liberated thought and greatly diminished religious adherence.

But none of this analysis bothered Sharon. To her this group of women were part of her female support group. They mattered, they needed to be included and their joy was her joy.

Press the forward button; it’s now fifteen years since old eyes drank in young dreams. Those residents, all long dead and gone, were given a few transcendent moments by a woman, now in her thirties, who has raised four children, lived inter-state and in China, known personal tragedy but also delighted in the hugely strong bonds of her family.

I see her only rarely now; her nature has never changed. She may have almost for-gotten this occasion all of those years ago. But I doubt any act of giving she has bestowed since has meant so much or touched so deeply.

Blessings to all.

Sandy