Each year Windmill Lodge Care Centre in Brixton hold a memorial service for those, who having spent their last years as part of a community, are lovingly remembered by relatives, friends and staff with their names beautifully recorded in a book of remembrance. The Mayor for Lambeth and its communities, has a standing invitation to attend this memorial service led by the local priest Rev George Briggs and I was very pleased, albeit for a only a very limited time, to become one of those participating in what must be the ultimate expression in end of life care.
Windmill Lodge carries out a duty of care for the frail and elderly and those with cognitive impairments, ranging from mild dementia to complex needs. The work of caring is not for everyone who feels empathy for the vulnerability of age and as Suzette explained, the work is demanding for both the carer and the cared for, especially when the lack of cognitive engagement or ‘travelling’ becomes apparent, with the loss then felt by all who have made this vocational commitment to caring for our older people.
The simple service of hymns, prayers and a blessing from Father Tom was conducted as an act of public closure in the midst of a very private grief for those families who were sharing their remembering with others experiencing a similar void in their lives. Amongst those attending this memorial service were the families of Emmy and Joan who had been close friends for well over fifty years and had died within a few months of each other in the care of Windmill Lodge. Although the two families expressed themselves individually at the end of a very moving service they stood together as a small hand carved plaque to the loving memory of Emmy and Joan was erected in the gardens.