(Worked as a Macmillan nurse within the Edinburgh community)

A 70 year old woman who has never taken alcohol, found that a modest dose of morphine produced an unpleasant sensation of dizziness etc, and which was for her worse than the pain. I managed to persuade the GP to prescribe a homeopathic dosage and this enabled her to feel comfortable without blurring her mind. (She was a wee bird of a wife and the dose would have been homeopathic for a child!)

The nurse was so supportive, we worked as a team, and as the end approached we were able to support the family in their hope to keep ‘mum’ at home.

On the day of her death I made a 2nd visit at around 6pm, and was able to adjust the pillows for a little more comfort (also helped me to do a little bit of hands on nursing).  As I bent down to say farewell, she whispered a barely audible “I didn’t know it was going to be like this…” and a beautiful smile lit up her face. I have no idea what she was experiencing/visualising but whatever it was, ‘it’ was OK. She died at 10pm.

The family who had been fearful about the situation and had hoped that she might agree to admission to the hospice were sufficiently empowered to face the father’s diagnosis and death 2 years later almost with confidence.

Working as a ‘Triple Duties Nurse’ in Sutherland in the early 60s taught me so much about life and death. I am eternally grateful to that community.

U.S. Military cemeteries allow one grave per soldier, but you can have up to four people at that headstone, stacked on top of each other.  My g’pa is the “primary”‘ with my grandma stacked with him.  Her name is on the back of the stone.

My Dad used to tell me every time we drove past the cemetery, “That’s where you’re going to plant me, Gin.”  When he died, that sentence came floating back to me in the middle of my pained malaise.  Of Course!  Golden Gate National Cemetery!  Duh!

Arrangements were made, we had a perfect ceremony, just the way Dad would’ve wanted it.  The stone would not be re-engraved and re-placed, adding my Dad’s name to his parents’,  until months later.

My family visited on a very rainy, dreary Easter Sunday.  I asked my husband and daughter to stay in the car because actually, I was a little afraid of seeing my father’s name there, written in stone.   I got to the front of the stone and read my grandfather’s name.  I took a deep breath and slowly stepped around to the back, where in stone was engraved:  “His Wives” — then were listed my grandmother’s name and my father’s name.  The U.S. Military had written in stone that my father had been married to his OWN father!!!!

At that moment I could hear, literally HEAR my father above me, saying a phrase he’d used many times over his long life…. “Yeah Gin, there’s the right way and the ARMY way!!!!” I started laughing uncontrollably, and hollered to my husband and daughter to join me.  We took SEVERAL very jolly photos, and had a wonderful time.

I did call the cemetery folks to change the stone, much to the consternation of my mother, who felt that we shouldn’t bother anyone about it.  I almost regret it, but I know my dad would have not liked being some kind of butt of local cemetery jokes!

Result?  We are usually all smiles when we visit my father and g’pa and g’ma.  That cemetery  provided us a wonderful coping mechanism at a very difficult time… And that experience has become the gift that keeps on giving!!!!