Time for me to top up the Hospice supply of prayer shapes.  They are placed in a basket in the chapel and tend to go like hot cakes.

Although several of us make them, we don’t always manage to keep up with demand by staff, patients and relatives.  The chaplain often finds the texts sellotaped to bed heads and the ‘shapes’ on lockers or under pillows.

At our local Association of Writers day a retired GP (who wishes to be anonymous) shared two stories from his hospice work.  These are his own words:

‘When Wheatfields Hospice, Leeds, opened in 1979, I was one of a team of voluntary doctors who worked there. One of our patients in those early days became uncharacteristically withdrawn and depressed.  She was a lady in her 60s in the terminal stages of cancer.

One Saturday morning when I was providing medical cover for the hospice for the weekend I sat in on the ‘handover’ of the night nurses to the morning shift of their colleagues. They said that this lady (I’ll call her Hilda) had that morning smiled for the first time in a week, and had eaten her breakfast.  I later saw all patients, and when I came to Hilda’s single room, she greeted me warmly and could not contain herself because of a dream – or vision – she had had that night.

She dreamed she saw two angels come to the hospice.  Their presence was such as to bring feelings of joy and peace.  Hilda asked them if they had come to take her to the heavenly realm where she longed to be but was also afraid.  ‘No’, they told her, ‘we have come to escort another soul in the hospice.  We will come back soon and escort you.’

Hilda was immediately fully awake. A patient did indeed die that night, but the sheer joy of her dream (or was it a vision?) transformed Hilda from her erstwhile feelings of wretchedness to a calm, talkative and even excited person.  She died a couple of days later in her sleep.

A similar story was told to me by the widow of a physicist who had not long since taken up his post as a professor at what was the cancer unit for Leeds and the surrounding district.  He was in his 50s when he developed his cancer.  His vision was one of being in heaven and its indescribable beauty.  This highly intelligent christian man spent his last evening on earth telling his wife about his extraordinary experience.  She felt almost put-out by his joy at the prospect of dying!

You may make of these stories what you will.  My own view is that he, like Hilda, knew full well the difference between a dream and a vision.’

I hope these lovely true stories bless you as much as they have blessed me – particularly in view of the recent death of my mother.