Leaves Of Love: Stories for Ageing & Dying Well
By Lucy Aykroyd
True stories of ageing and dying well gleaned from a life enhancing care giver & end of life Doula
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Leaves of Love… a small book of heart-warming and sometimes heart-wrenching true stories gleaned from my role as a life enhancing care giver and end of life doula. I have gathered them into one beautiful and accessible little volume, a companion in your pocket for those longing for ideas to enhance the life of an aging friend or relative, or who lack confidence and courage to accompany someone approaching the end of their life.
‘Story is a great teacher – it has the capacity to show us the way, even when times are dark’
The necessity of a book like Leaves of Love has emerged thanks to our age denying, death defying culture and the all-powerful medical system that ensures most of our elders are cared for by strangers and our dying, rarely happens at home. To live out our carefully gained later years, with a feeling of abandonment, the ache of loss, bored and lonely is the most tragic and largely unacknowledged outcome of ‘progress’ in medicine; role models in the gentle art of coming in close, listening with attention and loving deeply are a rarity.
‘A great consolation can be given to the very ill simply by touching their hands, gently massaging them, or holding them in your arms…’
The overall principles outlined within these pages are deceptively simple – a small bag of everyday items such as soap, soft towel, hair brush, along with a CD player, carefully selected music and beautiful photographs, are perhaps all we will need to get started. A creative imagination and empathetic heart will also help. Each story in this book comes with pointers that remind us as to what else might be most useful in specific situations.
‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited.’
One of the fundamental messages in Leaves of Love is the importance of living each day with appreciation, taking every opportunity to learn something new, and allowing every letting-go and good bye be a practice run for the real thing. Nature effects these transitions every day before our eyes, but we seem to be surprised when our time comes.
‘It is the twilight zone between past, present and future that is the precarious world of transformation’
Finally Leaves of Love touches on signs of dying, what to look for and what to do when accompanying someone as they die. It also suggests some ideas for laying out a body, possible rituals and the importance of grieving.
‘It’s such a secret place, the land of tears.’
Antoine Saint Exupery
It addresses the importance of having those awkward conversations about Wills, Advance Care Plans and Resuscitation and funerals, but as a layman’s guide only suggests links for you to further your own understanding and make personal choices.
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Lucy Aykroyd is a surprised writer.
An itinerant member of inspiring writing groups in the past and author of a short story or two with Huntly Writers in Aberdeenshire, her main creative passion used to be drawing, painting and making large coil vessels. That is until returning home after a short absence south of the border, the East Lothian writing beastie caught her by the tail and sat her down to gather her sheaf of stories into Leaves of Love.
Now all is lost. For better or worse her previous life is more-or-less laid aside; beguiled as she is by computer keys, cups of green tea and the possibility of enhancing lives through the written word. With her large family flown and grown she is relishing the freedom to learn new skills in her later years.
Following the thread of simplicity in all things, a small vestige of design and line remains in the leaf lino cuts that illustrate Leaves of Love.
It’s an interesting thing to notice what
loving another means as we age. That soft, warm and sometimes exciting feeling that we experience when we are young usually mellows with the years, has a different flavour. Appearances matter less, the heart matters more.
The commitment to accompany and tend another, even when it’s not pretty, is a wonderful expression of this love, and brings with it the richest of rewards. It is surely a beautiful thing to know that those who care for and about us, will not shy away when things get tough; that their love and respect for us overrides all obstacles and will not falter.
Holding, listening and being attentive to what may seem like tiny details of a person’s life reminds us to slow down, be actively present and sometimes to dig deep for patience.
We may have to leave the comfort of our chair and come in close, help with something distasteful, or out of our
comfort zone. This is where the richness comes in; over the course of these extraordinary moments may find that we gain more than we give and emerge with a greater sense of our collective humanity. It can also give us that nudge to become more than we ever thought we could be.
The creeping conviction that we have done nothing useful or have nothing to contribute as we age is very common, this calls for positive affirmations and relentless kindness. If our care needs have moved us away from the familiar into a home, hospice or hospital, such reassurance is even more important. With our identity under threat, warmth and empathy from those around us makes all the difference. So, does just turning up. When we are at our most fragile, it is not unusual for us to face enormous challenges, mostly alone. Finding ways to support each other is important.
- 24th September 2019 This is where we are now at... exciting times.
Apologies for the silence.
Its not silent here however.
The Editors have come back to me after their initial perusal of Leaves of Love. I was expecting to find this a traumatic experience and it was. But in a wonderful way. I was shaking with excitement throughout the conversation.
Such positive feedback and only half a dozen small comments/ queries. Plus the request for a few more paragraphs…9th August 2019 Editing....
A wet day- torrents of rain. It could be November. A perfect time to be editing before the final manuscript is submitted to Unbound. To my surprise I am really enjoying revisiting Leaves of Love. Exciting!30th July 2019 Whohoo!! What a day! We are now almost there!!!
Hey everyone! Stupendous day!
Now we are almost there.... anyone with £67 to spare then we are rolling!?
Next step, Leaves of Love heads off to the editor!
More thanks to you all than I can possibly express. Xxx29th July 2019 Ignore the last update....
A poor me approach is not helpful right now. Standing in the shadows, no longer an option.
The truth is that Leaves of Love, an essential guide to ageing and dying well is also a handbook for our troubled times. Ageing might soon be a luxury. The opportunty to slow down, think deep and plan our furture, something of the past.
Holding, loving, caressing the brow, cheek and hair of those we…27th July 2019 while i have had my head under my wing....
I have been sitting on the proverbial river bank, head under my wing, feeling very despondant. All the time wondering how to fan life back into my crowdfunding mission - how to make it sexy and exciting when clearly it is not!
Most people would prefer to do anything other than spend time considering their mortality or that of those they love. In fact generally we run like crasy in the other…9th July 2019 Oh dear...
This news will come as a blow to those of you who are actively and emotionall engaged in the journey toward the publication of Leaves of Love, stories for ageing and dying well - to whom I owe so much.
Recently I have been thoroughly over excited as it was suggested there might be outside funding available for a project such as mine. With heart racing and the end in sight, I layed the Creative…27th June 2019 £2,295 still to raise!
I am overwhelmed by the response to my last update. Thank you all so much! The beautiful supportive messages and a leap in the funding have realy warmed my heart.
Knowing so many people also believe in Leaves of Love has also made a big difference. Like the wild salmon swimming upstream to lay her life giving eggs, I remember that most big endeavors are a struggle. On we go.
Thanks to some…25th June 2019 Leaves of Love needs your help!
Hey there, Leaves of Love friends, loyal followers and generous supporters, we have reached a plateau in the Crowdfunding! I am not sure where to turn now and need your help.
54% is pretty brilliant but sadly not enough.
I have to tell you that asking people for money is the hardest thing imaginable and the attendant exposure on social media, a considerable struggle.
There comes a moment…16th May 2019 Incredible News! 45% of funding raised!
Greetings wonderful supporters!
I had begun to think there was no end to the rampages of my mind - updates and insta, emails and tweets. An endless merry go round of ideas and things to be done. A life on hold to funding deadlines - yet despite that, we seemed somewhat stuck.
One last look at the Leaves of Love page before I reach for my hottie and my bed - and there it is! 45%. Disbelief!…6th May 2019 Woohoo! 35% and climbing!
Woohoo! We have now reached 35% of the funding target! Thank you all so much! We will surely make the deadline with your help!
I now have some Dandy Little Fliers if you know of any good places or organisations where I can distribute them. Please email me at : firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas.
I am launching into Twitter today - perhaps belatedly but it will hopefully be another…1st May 2019 Spring Time - Seed Time
Well I dont know about you but this time of the year that gets my fingers itching - they just cannot wait to be in the soil, planting things. Whether its on the allotment, in a window box or taking a cutting from a house plant. Growing is in the air and I want to be part of it.
Imagine how it must be for someone with these primal longings when in a hospital ward or care environment. Their dreams…24th April 2019 Best Easter Egg Ever - much better than chocolate!
After a slow start, the Easter holidays have been a fruitful time for the Leaves of Love Crowdfunding.
You, my wonderful supporters have got us up to 33%. This is just so exciting! Thank you. Especially to those not known to me and who believe in the book itself - this gives me the courage and energy to push on over the coming weeks.
I am increasingly aware that if you are a carer, or know…14th April 2019 Spring Fling
A huge thank you to those who have supported the project of a stranger. In this case Leaves of Love. I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate your contribution. Now thaks to you we are 27% funded, and only 55 days to go! Eeek!
With Spring energy under my wings I have renewed vigour to reach the next stage - please continue to spread the word when ever you can. Leaves of Love needs…29th March 2019 Two Weeks in and still Flying....
Two weeks ago, sitting in the offices of Unbound, we pressed Go LIVE! Thanks to you we have now raised 18% of the funding. Thank you generous supporters.
The everyday conversations about Leaves of Love continue to affirm to me its important contribution to llife enhancing care. The power of Presence can be so undervalued - yet we ourselves can feel it so profoundly when we sit under a majestic…25th March 2019 16% raised - A Thousand Thank Yous!
As the pledges roll in i feel quite amazed and, overwhelmed! Some of them are anonymous and some have names i recognise and others are unknown.... but i want to thank all of you, everysingle one of you, espcially if you are supporting a stranger for the projects sake.
Please know that even if you do not get a personal message from me, that my gratitude is immense!
It is the same as in life…23rd March 2019 10% in a Week!
Goodness me! 10% of the publishing funds raised a week ! That is surely fantatastic! Thank you guys! What treasures you are! I am quite overwhelmed by your generosity and support for this project.
One of my fellow Unbounders has raised 37 % in the same time - but then they have a scintillationg title. Ageing and dying are not exactly subjects we as a culture relish thinking about - let alone…21st March 2019 Woweeeee!
This is the most terrifying and exciting process imaginable! However you my wonderful friends and followers make it fun too and your generosity is incredible! Thank you!
It is also really hard sharing the fruits of my pen ( computer keys!) - it feels a bit like running around naked! And asking for money is Never easy!
But here we go - and I keep thinking of what a difference this publication…
These people are helping to fund Leaves Of Love: Stories for Ageing & Dying Well.
Barbara Joan Meier
An anonymous donor