Newgrange, Our Lady's Hospice and the Irish Palliative Care Association

Visiting New Grange and then Our Lady's Hospice seems a bit of a weird combination to report on together, but read on and you'll get the link! I put some photos of Monasterboice (Co Meath) onto the last entry so you could see one of the most ancient round towers and large cross monuments in Ireland. The monastery was founded in the 5th Century AD by St Buithe and boasts two incredibly well preserved Celtic high crosses depicting biblical scenes designed for the spiritual inspiration of the local people, who couldn't read. Have a look at the attached link to find out some more about it's history, but I must say, walking around the ancient cemetery, dominated by these huge, beautifully carved crosses was spiritually inspiring for a 21 century Aussie who CAN read, so I can't imagine how awe inspiring they would have been for the simple folk of the 5th C!

I also visited Newgrange with my friend Michael while I was in County Meath. Going from Monasterboice (5th C) to New Grange (3200B.C) was like travelling from Star Wars to Middle Earth. In fact I felt a little like I had jumped into the Tardis, changed the dial and arrived in a different world. This huge Megalithic passage tomb was constructed 5000 years ago and the ingenious drystone construction that enables the structure to hold up great boulders that were transported from miles away from the site is amazing. The huge structure acted as a religious site, burial site and calendar with it's famous "roof box" that on the winter solstice allows the sun to penetrate the full length of the passage into the central tomb, being proof of the skill of it's creators. Older than Stonehenge and the Pyramid of Giza, Newgrange is a must see! Michael and I walked thru the narrow passage crouched over like hobbits until we reached the central chamber which was large, cool and beautifully decorated with megalithic carvings. Although gently illuminated in order to allow visitors to enter safely, when the lights are turned out, there is an amazing atmosphere within the chamber, complete silence and complete feels like being within a void and the energy retained in the stones is palpable.

So what's the link with Our Lady's Hospice? Well I'm going to draw a pretty long bow, but here goes. Newgrange was built as a site of ritual spiritual practice by the ancients, Our Lady's Hospice was established by the Sister's of Charity in 1879 (the Sister's having been founded in 1815 in Dublin by Mary Aitkenhead) in direct response to the overwhelming needs of the poor, who were predominantly excluded from spiritual and physical care. So the ancients and the Sisters both created places of spiritual and physical nurturing, based on their particular belief systems......and that's as close as I can get to a segue!

At Our Lady's I was treated to a tour around the hospice, the old hospital and the chapel as well as the very impressive Education and Research Centre presided over by Phil Larkin, Professor of Palliative Care Nursing. Phil and I had much in common and spent quite some time comparing notes regarding clinical practice, education, research and health promotion. He also showed me around the wonderful library they have on site, which is a great resource for those studying at the centre and the fantastic lecture theatre (which I assured him would be a wonderful performance space for ..........a play perhaps?????????)

I was also very lucky to join the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Irish Palliative Care Association, which enabled me to meet a group of very motivated, passionate and welcoming palliative care practitioners and managers who were very generous in allowing me to sit in on their meeting.

And so the official component of my visit to Ireland ended, but my learning had just begun.

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