Last year, Sheila was diagnosed with cancer. After some initial
investigation and treatments, she recovered well enough to finish her
autobiography A Passion for Birth. When the illness returned, she
decided not to have further investigations.
Sheila approached death with the same
attitude as she did birth - questioning the need for various medical
interventions and making her own choices. Just as she believed in thinking
about what you would want while giving birth, she also believed in the value
of thinking in advance about dying - and making plans.
Sheila set down her wishes in an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment
and gave one of her daughters power to represent her (Lasting Power of
Attorney for Health and Welfare) should she lose the capacity to take
decisions for herself. She specifically refused further admission to
Sheila was cared for at home, as she wished,
and that is where she died. On the 12th of April her family carried her
body in the brightly decorated cardboard coffin she had requested to a
natural burial site for a small private ceremony. We read some of Sheila's
own poetry at the graveside and scattered the coffin with earth, sprigs of
rosemary and camellia blossom from our lovely garden.
We know that many friends, colleagues, and others whose lives she
touched, will want to join us in remembering and celebrating her. We hope to arrange a memorial event some time later this
In the meantime, thank you for all your kind
messages of support for our family, and the powerful testimonies you are
sending about the value of Sheila's work and life.
As Sheila wrote in one
of her own poems:
After the soaring, a
like swans settling on the lake
After the tumult and the roaring winds,