Happy Thanksgiving

Well of Inspiration, Mount Melleray, Co Waterford

Thanksgiving never meant a lot to me until a couple of years ago. It is not celebrated in Ireland but there have been moves, by the Irish Hospice Foundation among others,  to make it a day on which we say ‘thank you’ to those who have impacted on our lives.

One of the huge influences in my life in the last year has been a poetry thread which I started on the Linkedin Group ~ TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. It has drawn interest from people all over the world, with over 8,000 posting now,  and continues to  be a source of huge satisfaction,  inspiration, fun and, most importantly,  friendship.

The first line I posted was written by the great Irish poet, W.B. Yeats: Tread softly because you tread on my dreams  and I must say that the level of mutual respect within the group has been wonderful.

So, I would like to give thanks this year on Thanksgiving Day to all those who have contributed to the poetry thread since its inception. It is just amazing to wake to poetry which has been posted over night ~ poetry which inspires, makes me smile, think, cry, hope and, most importantly, feel fully alive and connected.

I have chosen this poem from Denise Leverov to mark the day because it is about gratitude but also brings to mind the fact that the poetry thread is one that never sleeps because it draws people together from right across the globe.

To all the wonderful contributors, I say a big ‘thank you’ on this day for giving thanks.

That Passeth All Understanding


Denise Levertov

An awe so quiet
I don’t know when it began.

A gratitude
had begun
to sing in me.

Was there
some moment
song from no song?

When does dewfall begin?

When does night
fold its arms over our hearts
to cherish them?

When is daybreak?

End-of-Life Care: Ethics and Law

End-of-life care is a subject which is of  huge interest to me at both a personal level and as a professional sociologist and I have been keenly aware for many years of the need for well-researched Irish-oriented books on this topic.

End-of-Life Care: Ethics and Law  by Joan McCarthy, Mary Donnelly, Dolores Dooley, David Smith and Louise Campbell, which was published in November 2011 by Cork University Press,  is of immense value in moving towards filling this gap.

The book offers an Ethical Framework for end-of-life decision making in healthcare settings and crucially it aims to foster and support ethically and legally sound clinical practice in end-of-life treatment and care in Ireland.

The Framework, which is the outcome of a unique collaboration between the Irish Hospice Foundation, University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland,  consists of  the following 8 Modules of Learning:

What is particularly appealing about this publication is the fact that, although it deals with complex issues and draws on a vast amount of research from different disciplines and countries, it is written in very accessible language which means that it is not just a book for healthcare and legal professionals but also for patients, families and the general public.

This educational aim of this book is not to tell people what to do but to offer tools for thinking about difficult ethical and legal issues that arise in relation to death and dying.  Among the tools that I find particularly useful is having the current laws in Ireland that relate to a whole spectrum of end-of-life issues set out in a coherent way.

The use of case studies throughout the book is a very effective method of enabling the reader to reflect on ethical and legal complexities and to highlight the range of different perspectives from which the same situation can be viewed.  End -of-Life Care: Ethics and Law is a publication which fully recognises the mulitcultural and socially diverse world that health professionals, healthcare staff, patients and families belong to.

The dominant message which stands out for me from this excellent book is the importance of  sensitive and informed communication, at very many levels, about end-of-life issues. The material that lies within the covers of  End-of-Life Care: Ethics and Law provides us all with a wonderful resource to develop this communication and I concur fully with this extract from Murray and Jennings (2005) which is cited on page 33:

The next decades should be, we believe, a time of  education and soul-searching discussions in communities and at kitchen tables, as well as in health care settings. […] We must talk about what we dare not name, and look at what we dare not see. We shall never get end-of -care ‘right’ because death is not a puzzle to be solved. Death is an inevitable aspect of the human condition. But let us not forget: while death is inevitable, dying badly is not.

Irish Hospice Foundation: Workshops on Loss and Bereavement

Last week, I attended two of the Irish Hospice Foundation’s Workshops on Loss and Bereavement. I write about this stimulating experience in Section Sixteen of Losing Elderly Parents.


Irish Times Article on End of Life Issues

‘End-of -life issues  do not just end with death’  is an article which I wrote reflecting on my experiences as a daughter witnessing the final stages of my parents lives. It was published in the Irish Times yesterday. To read the article click on http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/health/2011/0322/1224292769725.html