Listening, and the art of living
Dr Celia Jameson Rose, well-known and much-loved specialist physician in Grahamstown for over 35 years, passed away at Settlers Hospital five days before Christmas after a long battle with cancer. At a packed Cathedral funeral service on Christmas Eve her son, Dr Arthur Rose, Rhodes graduate and Post-doctoral Fellow at Durham University, UK, delivered the eulogy. r Celia Pringle Jameson was born in Gatooma, Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, in 1948. After A Levels, she attended Medical School at the University of Cape Town, one of only six women in her class. She went on to further training at the University of London, and became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians.
When she returned to work at the Johannesburg General Hospital, she undertook further training in gastroenterology and gerontology.
Here she developed a lifelong commitment to care for the terminally ill and in 2007 she completed a Master’s degree in Palliative Care at the University of Cape Town. While raising her children, she also managed to read for a BA degree in English Literature and Psychology at Unisa.
In the early 2000s, she campaigned strongly for a Private Wing at Settlers Hospital.
Almost alone, and in opposition to many other proponents for an exclusive Private Hospital, she insisted that such an endeavour must come about through Public Private Partnership, whereby State
Dpatients could receive equal access to health expertise. Joint support in providing community medical treatment was critical, she felt, to integrating communities divided into the haves and the havenots.
The former Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, cited this partnership as exemplary of the types of PPP the government should strive for.
In 2006, she fought to open a Palliative Care Ward at Settlers Hospital, now sadly closed.
In providing specialist care for the terminally ill, she was able to show that HIV/Aids patients, in particular, not only benefited from specialist palliative care but, in increasing numbers, were returned to a healthy life in the community.
In her time at Settlers Hospital, spanning more than 35 years, she was a formidable presence.
She was a respected colleague, caring physician, attentive practitioner but especially a gifted diagnostician.
Amidst that, she managed to be part of PTAs, social groups, choral groups.
She grew roses for Home Industries, she helped award Flanagan Scholarships, and she fetched and carried not altogether appreciative children.
Her favourite joke was to ask these complaining children whether she should just step over dying patients at Settlers in order to be at the school gate to pick them up on time.
Our favourite response was, “yes”!
When I think of my mother, one word crowds out all others. It appears, as we receive the many, many messages of love, care and sadness, I was not the only one who saw her in this light.
You may be surprised, but the word isn’t kindness or care.
Though she had a great capacity for kindness, she was always more caring than kind. To be a physician, and I think we can agree she was a great physician, one needs to be willing to say things that others would rather not hear, to care above being kind.
It isn’t even empathy, sympathy or understanding, though, again, she had these qualities in abundance.
The key to good medicine, she told me once, is in the case history. The patient will tell you what is wrong, if only you let them.
And so, she listened. Listened with forbearance. To complaints, to pains, to tears, to the expression of fears that seemed so daunting that no one could possibly hear or understand. And yet she did. It is, you might think, difficult when you have to share with an entire town the mother who is yours, who is supposed to listen, first and foremost, to your grumbles, wipe away your tears, patch up your scraped knees.
But it wasn’t; she had patience enough, resources enough, to grant each and every one, equal audience.
Is there a greater gift than sitting in front of a good listener? All these, and yet, the word that rises up for me is “adamant”.
No need for bluff, or loud voice, my mother could hold you with her eyes: eyes that could express steely grey determination. Adamant in her professionalism, adamant in her faith, adamant in her care for family, adamant in her love for Peter, her husband, Rhodes academic and Emeritus Professor.
After her passing, my sister, Sarah, said, our mother has taught us how to die, speaking of the great resilience with which she faced the many health challenges in her final years.
An old friend after visiting her in hospital, commented that it was like attending a Master Class in dealing with adversity.
But we learn to die, that we might better learn to live. And so, in teaching us this last lesson, how to die with dignity, and with a calm assurance that current trials were but a stage on an onward journey, and after a lifetime of caring for the dying, I think my mother also taught us all something else, something about what it means to live. • Celia Jameson’s family have decided not to hold a memorial service, because so many people attended her funeral service on 24 December.
Dr Celia Jameson.