I never feel entirely comfortable when I stand up and talk to a large group of people, particularly when I know few if any faces in the room. Following a speaker, an injured serviceman who ran 52 marathons for charity last year and is doing the same this year, interspersed with climbing the odd mountain, didn’t help my confidence.
That said, I found the experience of talking at the University of Birmingham Hospital Trust’s Dignity in Care Conference – a catchy title, eh – a very rewarding experience. Describing the last four years for Mum and the family to a roomful of healthcare professionals felt like an important thing to do. By the way, doesn’t the title Healthcare Professionals sound like a 1970s TV medical thriller series?
But I digress. My talk consisted of a brief introduction followed by excerpts from this blog. I managed to hold it together for the most part but focussing on the emotions which prompted me to blog in the first place caused my voice to crack on a couple of occasions. When I finished, I noticed some dabbing of eyes in the audience and the chief nursing officer, a lovely, warm lady who’d set the tone for the conference, was fighting back the tears when she thanked me. To my right, on a large screen, there was projected a photo of Mum. The photo wasn’t old but it was taken at a time when the light still shone in her eyes all the time. She smiled down on the room, with her head slightly on one side, as if amused by what she was seeing. I’m looking at the same photo now. It stands on my desk, next to one of my late father and if ever I need a shot in the arm, I look at the pair of them.
I talked to Mum about making the speech. She used to work at the old Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and there was a brief flicker of recognition when I mentioned it. I’m not sure how much she took in about the conference – almost certainly very little if anything – but she was the reason I was there and it mattered to me that I told her about it.
It was odd but in some ways, I felt closer to Mum on Thursday as I was addressing the Bodies and Doyles* of the medical world than I sometimes do when I visit her. The response from the audience was heartwarming. One lady, who has personal family experience of dementia, told me I was talking directly to her. Others said how moving they’d found the talk. I think Mum would love it if her story could help people to understand a little more about dementia.
She probably won’t be able to grasp that idea but I can and will hold on to it. It will be there to sustain me as we continue down the road.
*Apologies to those born since 1980 who weren’t exposed to the exploits of Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins. I’m told, though, it still airs digitally on a daily basis.