Hospice Hero’s – Thank You

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Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen

A NYC Taxi driver wrote:

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.’

‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive
through downtown?’

‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly..

‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice. ‘The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired. Let’s go now’.

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse.

‘Nothing,’ I said

‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.

‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life..

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

 Tonight, when you leave this hall, you will have the opportunity to drop a donation into a box at the door – to give a note to St Francis Hospice.

 Remember: that small moment in your life is a great moment in the lives of 600 odd people who live with life-limiting illnesses here in Port Elizabeth and are cared for by St Francis Hospice.

 I know that it’s a great moment because I am one of those people. I live, albeit for a while longer, with corticalbasal degeneration, a degenerative brain disease.

 My name is Ed Lunnon.

 On behalf of my fellow patients, I wish to thank Richard Cock and his musicians for the entertainment; St Francis Hospice for the caring, and you, the audience, for turning small moments into great ones today.

See 

Last Night of the Proms

proms

©2013 Edward C. Lunnon

Monday 3 June 2013: 6 years 9 months on …

Game ED

Justice Malala, TV Presenter and Newspaper Correspondent writes in The Times today, “Our current leaders seem incapable of resolving our challenges. These are tough worrying times…”

In the same newspaper, I read the headlines

  • ·         Children Betrayed
  • ·         Far too few social workers to save our abused kids
  • ·         Welfare services are in a bad way
  • ·         Overloaded but underpaid
  • ·         It’s sink or swim time
  • ·         Proper governance is the only way to save us
  • ·         Education is priority
  • ·         SA’s firewall up in flames
  • ·         There is no excuse

There IS NO EXCUSE!

Yes, this is but the tip of the iceberg and the headlines above apply to all our non-governmental organisations. The very associations set up and designed to provide assistance to the ill, the elderly, the children and the needy are themselves in need – often because government is remiss in providing these organisations with the financial assistance that they are budgeted and expected to do!

So the organisations turn for help to the business community (who themselves are battling to post profits) and to the ordinary man in the street (who is also battling the ravages of the current poor economic climate!)

As Justice wrote this morning, “We are going nowhere slowly.”

So it was that this weekend, the St Francis Hospice of Port Elizabeth staged its annual Last Night of the Proms at the Feather Market Centre – a fund raiser of note … literally and figuratively! … and in memory of a great Port Elizabeth benefactor, Philipp Rowland Gutsche.

This year it featured the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Richard Cock, soloists the well-known Von Memerty Family and Musa Ngqungwana, various massed choirs from local schools and the community, the Algoa Caledonian Pipe Band and the McWilliam’s Academy of Dance.

Despite a number of other shows on in Port Elizabeth at the same time, the two shows on 1 and 2 June 2013 were a sell-out – a glowing testament to the people of Port Elizabeth for their magnificent support.

I proposed that we do a sort of retiring offering at the end of the show – asking the audience to empty their pockets for a good cause. It is a good cause – I (and the family) benefit so much from the weekly visits and support that I get from Sisters Gill, Janice and from Isaac and Jenny.

So how does one say thank you to people and an organisation like this?

I tried to do that in the two minutes that I was allowed (see previous blog: THANK YOU) and I hope that I got my message across.

But, if I didn’t, then I saw this on Facebook: Where words fail, music speaks. It surely did this weekend at The Proms! (and in the movie Les Misérables that I watched last night.)

Maybe, the flip side of government’s inability to govern allows us the opportunity to still see and enjoy fundraiser shows such as Last Night of the Proms!

Watch this space next year for another show … and book early.

Thank you again for your support!

(And in the same newspaper I read that that the Communications Minister spent R700 000 on a visit to a prize-giving in Mexico, an unauthorised shopping detour to New York, R35 000 for 2 nights at the Ritz, R10 000 for luxury car hire for 2 days, unaccounted amounts on another trip to the Face of Africa function in Nigeria, twenty other overseas trips, a R6 million management fee paid to her “spouse/boyfriend” …)

How many sick people or abused kids could be cared for out of that?

When will the people communicate with the Minister and with our government? Hopefully at the next election … or is that wishful thinking?

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Thank You St Francis Hospice and Supporters

This was my thank you speech at the LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS held in the Feather Market Centre, Port Elizabeth on 1 and 2 June 2013.

The event is held as a fund-raiser for the St Francis Hospice.

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Ladies and gentlemen – good evening, and thank you for those words of introduction.

Yes, I am Ed Lunnon – the face of a voice that you may have heard on AlgoaFM. 

If I may paraphrase Shakespeare, let me say to Ian von Memerty and the dancers today 

“If music be the food of love, dance on.”

 But, unfortunately, in life, the dancing does come to an end.

 And, for some of us, that dancing comes to an end far too soon.

 The “us” I refer to, are the 600 patients with life-limiting illnesses who are the caretakers supported by the caregivers of St Francis Hospice.

 But, we are not just “patients”. We are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, oupas and oumas – we are people, just like you, for whom the dancing has abruptly stopped and who need care and support.

 Today, I am their face too.

 And, on their behalf, I wish to thank the organizers and the musicians for making this magnificent production possible.

 I wish to thank the men and women of St Francis Hospice who sustain and encourage us along very difficult steps.

 ‘Kind of angels’, Bono called them. They are caring people – Just like YOU are caring people!

 People who support and assist financially to enable the Hospice to remunerate their carers to continue providing comfort to us

 and possibly, sometime in the future, comfort to you and your loved-ones.

 Thank you, our loyal supporters, for all your care shown in the form of financial support, today, in the future, and at the end of this show!

 Your caring for St Francis Hospice allows them to care for us.

 So, from the bottom of our hearts,

 To you, the supporters – Thank you for the money.

 To you, the carers – Thank you for the moments.

 To you, Richard and your performers – Thank you for the music.