For Volunteers Week, Mary Gilliatt explains what drew her to Trinity, how she has helped and what she has learned along the way.

Up to nearly 4 years ago I knew shamefully little about hospices and even less about palliative care. But, I had recently moved to Clapham and was walking my dog along the common opposite the gateways of Trinity, when, on a sudden impulse, I crossed the road and turned into the driveway to see if they needed any volunteers. They did and it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me at this stage of my life.

I started off on transport for Mulberry Place, collecting and taking back day patients from their various appointments. It was a good way to get to know the latter and to find out about the increasing services that the hospice provided.

Almost from the start I became aware of the special warmth and unexpected lightness of spirit of Trinity’s atmosphere starting with reception.  Very soon too, I discovered how young, caring and impressive so many of the permanent staff turned out to be.  I began to really look forward to my hospice days.

About 8 months into volunteering I was asked if I would be interested in writing a book to commemorate the 125th year of the hospice’s existence . I was honoured. I decided the book should try to embrace the whole international modern hospice and palliative care movements and how those movements  have been variously interpreted throughout the world.  In particular I wanted to try to explain the importance – and the all-round comfort - of breaking that last taboo in the Western World:  any serious talk about death.

I’ve now written the book but, not surprisingly given current attitudes, it is hard to find a publisher who doesn’t say what a difficult subject it is to sell and what a chance they would be taking.

While I wait hopefully for a publisher prepared to take that chance, I continue volunteering at Trinity’s Thursday Club, the morning drop in for coffee, tea and cake.  I realize more than ever how much of a generous, comforting club and haven Trinity is, and just how many thoughtful treats and services it offers. 

It is quite a task to take in all of the social, legal, medical and bereavement help available: physiotherapy, complimentary therapy, art, exercise, yoga, concerts, , choir practices, massages, hair, make up and so many other ‘feel good’ services  that the hospice  provides under one roof . 

Trinity’s motto is ‘Living Every Moment’ .  And it’s a good one. As much as is possible, it really does turn last days into better days.