Friday, December 20, 2013

The least of these...

Today has been an interesting day.

This morning I conducted the funeral of a woman who had been in care for most of her life (one of Beechworth's 'claims to fame' in the olden days was a mental asylum known as Mayday Hills, where many people spent far too much of their lives - eg women suffering from post-natal depression were often 'committed' to Mayday, and once inside, never got out.)

When the govt made sweeping changes to the way people with special needs were cared for, the residents of Mayday were sent out into group homes and similar places in the community, and this lady had been living in one of those units when she died. She had a daughter, who is also in care, and no other family to speak of, so the funeral was arranged through the public trustee. I liaised with some of her current and former carers in planning the funeral service, and was so impressed by the care they demonstrated for this woman, and the thoroughness with which they researched her story (the bits before their time), so that her life could be appropriately honoured in the eulogies they presented at the funeral.

A number of the other residents of the facility where this lady lived, and others around Beechworth, attended the funeral, along with current and former care staff, and families of the residents. It was a great service- with tears and laughter- as we remembered this woman who had been quite a character around the town of Beechworth in her day.

Afterwards, I went back to the home for some lunch with others who'd been at the funeral, and had a lovely time chatting with the daughter of this woman, and some of the others from the home where she had lived. The staff kept thanking me for coming, (and for the service, which they said had been a great celebration of a life).

It would have been so easy for this woman to have slipped through the cracks, to have noone to care for her at the end of her life (and as I prepared myself to plan this funeral, I was determined not to let her become another Eleanor Rigby). It was therefore a delight to see a congregation of almost 50 people who came to celebrate this woman's life; to remember her and say their goodbyes.