17th March 2022
Julie’s poem about end of life choices goes on tour
A volunteer counsellor at Nottinghamshire Hospice has written a poem about end-of-life choices which has been set to music and is being taken on tour. On World Poetry Day we bring you her story
Julie Barnes, who first came to the hospice in the early 2000s and returned in 2017, is a counselling and emotional support volunteer. The role complements her work as a counsellor in private practice and as a soul midwife, supporting people at the end of life.
Julie’s poem, ‘What Would Love Do Now?’ was inspired by a line in a Soul Midwife training book and reflects her passion for caring for people in the last stages of their lives.
Julie said: “I’ve run death cafes and workshops called ‘Dying to Talk’. I’m passionate about supporting people to talk about their relationship with death and dying and breaking the taboo.
“I spent a lot of time since Covid thinking about what a good death might look like.
“I’ve been involved in many conversations about what choices were left for people who might be facing ventilation and hospital stays alone. It seemed to be even more important to encourage people to talk about what really matters to them .
“As I thought about what matters at the end of life, the words of the poem flowed from my pencil. It’s my take on what would matter to me at the end of my life.
“Death and dying is a difficult topic that we don’t like to face in our society, so I hope the poem provides a springboard for people to think about these sensitive issues and to share what matters to them with the ones they love.”
Poem on tour
The poem has been recorded by actress Corinna Powlesland, and set to music and performed by Judith Silver – who runs an organisation called Companion Voices which provides singers at the bedside of people who are dying – and video by Cliff Braverman.
Julie and Judith are planning a series of live performances across the UK this summer at venues including Warwick, London, Brighton, Yorkshire and Nottingham. They have presented the poem at conferences and workshops including Dying Matters, Lifting the Lid, and the Soul Midwife annual conference, and are in discussion with a theatre producer about creative productions of the themes within the poem. An exhibition of creative words, images and music on the theme of Imagining a Good Death, What Would Love Do Now? is currently being designed.
Julie added: “The poem complements my volunteer role at the hospice which is about supporting people at the most painful time of their lives, working with the questions and emotions that are raised and accompanying them on their journeys. This work really matters – it cuts through more superficial cares and worries and it’s a privilege to be with people at such times.
“Providing a safe and supportive space for people to talk about their loss and grief and seeing them starting to make sense of what and who they have lost, and finding ways to continue living their lives is equally important.”
Julie currently counsels two clients a week, online and on the phone.