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Friendship helps with grief

Jimmy’s wife Maureen of 48 years died 8 months ago. Palliative care volunteers Christine and Margo still visit him every week.

In their retirement Jimmy and Maureen had a ball driving through Victoria and New South Wales, playing bingo at almost every stop. “I retired quite young so we travelled around doing what we wanted to do… One year we won $50,000 playing bingo! I just loved it.”

Later on, at home in Glenormiston, Maureen became ill and bed-ridden with lung cancer. “Palliative care people came to see how they could help. They did everything they could for her. A palliative care doctor even came during his weekend off and sat with her. I was there holding her hand at the end. It’s been a pretty hard run since then.

“I don’t think you ever get over it, but I have all these good people looking after me. I still talk to Maureen and have meals with her…it’s one of the ways I’ve coped so far.

“The volunteers from South West Healthcare’s Palliative Care Team have made a big difference for me. I was on the verge of going nowhere before Margo and Christine came. They’re both locals, and talking with them has been great. I don’t think I would have got through it without them.

“Margo takes me for drives, and Christine works in the garden with me. She also takes me to bingo sometimes.” Though they’ve never won much at bingo, Jimmy loves having the two to talk to -“otherwise it’s just the cat or the galah out the back.”

Being together, gardening

“Providing company and connection is a core part of palliative care,” Christine says.

“When I started to help Jimmy, it was beautiful weather and perfect gardening time. It was great for both of us. I learnt a lot about gardening from Jimmy, and he had a hand to get his vegies growing again… Jimmy’s garden grew while our friendship grew. It’s been a good journey in a very difficult situation.”

Margo often drives Jimmy to the cemetery with flowers fresh from the garden. “I’d been caring for my husband, Alan, who had pulmonary fibrosis. Many times I could have done with an extra hand or someone to talk to. So I thought I’d help someone else who might need a hand… It’s very rewarding to be involved as a volunteer.”

Christine signed up to become a palliative care volunteer one day after work.

“I wondered if I could ever do this, but the training was thorough… For me it is about connecting people within the community. I enjoy seeing Jimmy every week. I know there are some days when he’s not really on top of things, and other days when he laughs a lot! It’s good to be with Jimmy on any of those days.”

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