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Mary Vachon—The light and the shadow 

Mary Vachon—The light and the shadow
Mary Vachon—The light and the shadow

Philip J Larkin

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date: 26 July 2021

The contribution of Mary Vachon to our understanding of the stress in caring for people at end of life is remarkable. In this chapter, she shares 40 years of wisdom in the field, outlining how we might explore, debate, and understand the new learning around the art and science of compassion. A fundamental question she raises is the need to explore the experience, choices, and decisions that bring an individual into palliative care, since those same experiences and decisions may sustain or subvert the ability to care in a healing and compassionate way. The Light and Shadow, which together make us the whole beings that we are, both serve the nature of compassion; the question is how to use both to best advantage as health care professionals. The issue of presence is an important image in this chapter-the sense of how the simple presence of one being to another can provide strength, resolve, and hope for the future. Indeed, the use of imagery described in the intricate case of Annabelle leads us to look for explanations in the wider psychoanalytical and philosophical literature for how best to be present to her suffering. The ability to discern what personal resources we have to sustain us, and the recognition that compassion begins with the Self, are fitting messages with which to conclude the author contributions to this book.

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