From the heart: Judy Davies

The Revd Julie Davies

Funeral Directors A.B. Walker & Son are at the heart of their local community. In a new series, they ask key people within our community about their lives and their beliefs. Here Judy Davies explains more.

“This is the sort of role where you meet remarkable people,” says the Revd Judy Davies, the chaplain at Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading.

The hospice provides specialist palliative care for people with life-limiting illnesses.

“The courage with which people face the end of their life never ceases to strike me, and also the amazing grace and generosity they have in being very open with someone like me, who is a stranger to them,” she says.

There are people that Judy will always remember. There are those who have young children, the elderly looking back over their lives.

“You keep them in your heart and mind,” she says.

Judy, a Methodist minister, has been in health care chaplaincy for 20 years, most of those in palliative care, and has been in a full-time role at the hospice for the last three years.

“It’s a job that I enjoy otherwise I wouldn’t have felt able to do it for such a long time,” she says.

“There are some good times and some laughs as well as sadness.

“It’s very rewarding.

“When someone has a life limiting illness it often raises a lot of questions in their minds. Mine is a listening role and a supportive role at a significant time in their lives.’

People can come to Duchess of Kent Hospice at different stages of their illness – it’s not just about end of life care. And they may want to talk to a chaplain about a whole range of things: how their relatives are managing, or a family event they want to attend; some who have a religious faith want to feel at peace with God.

“Of course there are times when it gets to you,” says Judy. “I think there would be something wrong if you were always so in control that things didn’t get to you.

“There will be times when things are sad or upsetting.”

She copes by having a strong support network.

This includes monthly supervision sessions with an Anglican priest who works as a chaplain in a children’s hospice.

“I can reflect on my work, the things that have been good and the things that have been difficult,” Judy says.

She also has supportive colleagues at the hospice and Methodist colleagues who are there for her too. When she needs to relax she goes for a long walk, reads a book or listens to music.

“My Christian faith is at the heart of what I do,” she says. “It’s at the heart of my calling to be a minister and I believe God led me to do this work.

“I will talk about things of faith with people who want to do that and sometimes sharing Holy Communion or having somebody to pray with them is tremendously important.

“But sometimes people don’t want to talk about God or religion at all and then your faith is something that you’re doing rather than speaking about.

“I think it is possible to show the love of God in all sorts of different ways and it isn’t always about words.”

At a training event recently she was asked to find a verse or a passage from the Bible which expressed how she felt about her work.

She chose the words of Jesus from John’s Gospel:

“This is my command: that you love one another, as I have loved you.”

“That’s what underlies it all for me,” she says. “It comes back to love.”