Letters - 01 December 2023

From Finding love and support to Meetings

Finding love and support

Barrie Mahoney is troubled by the expectation that, resulting from the cancer, as well as pain he will experience ‘loss of dignity, loss of independence’ and will be a ‘burden’ on others (10 November).

Loss of independence does not necessarily mean loss of dignity. The definition of dignity is the ‘state of being worthy of honour’. It’s when a person is not treated with care and compassion that dignity is lost; it’s not dependent on their ability to do things for themselves. There are people who have to depend on others for almost everything who retain dignity because they are cared for with respect.

I understand that Barrie is expressing his very real fears about the future but I’m concerned that he should feel that he may become a burden to those who love him. I have been involved in the care of relatives towards the end of their lives and it was at times a very difficult and painful experience. However it has also been a privilege to be present with them on that journey. It’s a precious gift to care for and support another in these circumstances.

Perhaps our western culture which so highly values independence has made us blind to the fact that we need each other. In cultures where more emphasis is on community, I think there is more acceptance of the inevitability, at some stage of our lives, of needing to be cared for by others.

With regard to the debate in parliament, I’m surprised that Barrie would wish to remove clerics from the debate because he doesn’t agree with them! I understood that as Quakers we try to listen to and understand people whose views are different to our own.

Barry states that ‘as a Quaker, I find it hard to balance a loving God… wishing to prolong our pain and misery’. I have found that God indeed loves us and of course does not wish to prolong our pain. He is not a God who controls everything but a God who works through the love of others. I too am afraid of what the future might hold but I hope and pray that, as I have had experience of God sustaining and strengthening me through my life, I will also experience that at the end.

I hope Barrie will find that his fears will not all become reality and that he may find love and support perhaps in unexpected places.

Anne Macarthur

Proceed with sensitivity

Are you an experienced Friend moving to a different Meeting?

You may quickly see ways in which you might be useful, or things you long to change. Please, Friend, be cautious. Wait a while and study the dynamics of the Meeting before you put yourself forward. Give yourself time to learn who has been accustomed to doing what.

This is particularly important in the case of a Meeting without designated elders or pastoral carers, as individuals may have been unobtrusively fulfilling a particular function for a long time and be shocked and hurt to find themselves undermined by a well-meaning newcomer.

Your opportunities will come if you proceed with sensitivity. The Meeting may seem jaded and in need of a tonic, but please don’t assume you are what’s needed. Remember that a new broom can raise dust as well as sweeping it away.

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