Amy White, a 25-year-old teacher from Sheffield, tells ehospice how walking Spain’s famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail to raise money for Dying Matters helped her come to terms with the death of her grandmother.
Mountains. Sea. The sound of trekking poles on the earth. Backpacks. Blue skies. Blisters. Tears. The question, ‘What’s the point?’ Baking sun. Wind. Wine. Overwhelming joy. Downpours. Grieving. Growth. Self-discovery. Achievement.
These are just a few of the words that would describe my experience on the Camino De Santiago pilgrimage, Spain.
My name is Amy and I’m a teacher from Sheffield. All my family are based in this wonderful city, and although I’m a traveller at heart, I’m also quite the home-bird too. I really appreciate time with my loved ones, especially my incredible grandma, Jean.
But earlier this year, my grandma began to get very sick very quickly. I remember her going to and from hospital so much it was as if she lived there. We pulled together as a family, desperately hoping for the best. But after a long battle with various illnesses, including Multiple Sclerosis and cancer, and despite the doctors’ best efforts, my beautiful nannan passed away.
Shell-shocked, and riddled with an overwhelming set of emotions – sadness, regret, anger and grief to name a few, my family and I sank into a very dark time. I missed my grandma so much, reminiscing about funny memories we had together, yearning to have a cup of tea with her one last time.
I began to reflect on her experience at the hospital a few weeks before her death. We’d received excellent care and support from all the team, but the NHS cut backs became evident. The doctors and nurses were so overworked and overly busy that they hardly had any time to spend with us. What’s more, none of us knew how to best support her in the last few stages of her life; death is, after all, such a taboo topic in our country.
That’s when I discovered Dying Matters. I saw that their mission was to raise awareness about death, dying and bereavement as well as providing practical and emotional support to people approaching the end of their lives. They even offered help to family members too. That’s exactly what we would have needed at that time. If only we’d known about this!
I decided that, in the name of my grandma and my family that I wanted to do something to support this incredible charity, to help them grow and spread the word about the support they offer.
So in September 2018, I embarked on a personal pilgrimage across northern Spain to raise £500 for Dying Matters and Hospice UK. Not only did I have one of the most beautiful and profound adventures of my life, but I also came to terms with my grandma’s passing. It was as if she were there with me, every step of the way. I used this solitary time to think of all the great times we had together, and all the things she’d taught me. I used this time to grow, to heal and to let go.
And with a smile on my face, new muscles on my legs and blisters on my feet, I triumphantly returned home. I’d walked 527km and surpassed my target, raising £592.67.
I’d like to thank everyone who supported me on this personal endeavour, including the Dying Matters team. They inspired me, encouraged me and made me believe (even in times of doubt) that this was all possible.
And a last message for anyone reading this who is interested in doing something amazing for charity: if I can do it, so can you!
Dying Matters Awareness Week 2019 will take place from May 13 – 19.
A day of workshops and practical sessions for those planning Dying Matters events this year takes place on February 7. For more information and to book visit Kickstart your Dying Matters 2019 event