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‘I thought, that’s it, we can make it through this.’ Daphne’s Reader Story

Written by Lily Kehoe, 28th March 2024

Daphne lives in a sheltered accommodation and before lockdown used to attend the Shared Reading group that meets in the Methodist Church in West Kirby, Wirral.

During lockdown, she became very isolated and for nearly two years, the only people she spoke with were her two daughters and the Reader Leaders from the group who took it in turns to phone her and several other group members every week to read a poem or a short story over the phone.  Here is Daphne’s story. 


"Oh wow, this is just what I need"

Before lockdown, I was very ill and confined to barracks, and then lockdown came and I became low and isolated.  I used to do a lot of things in my local church but now I feel useless, my memory has deteriorated and I continue to find it difficult to remember things that have just happened, my short-term memory is shot!  Some weeks, I forgot that the Reader Leaders were phoning me and got such a lovely surprise when I picked up the phone and it was Sue or Dirk with a lovely short story or poem.

When lockdown ended and I was able to go out again, I re-joined the Shared Reading group and I can remember the first face-to-face meeting and thought oh wow, this is just what I need, I was absolutely amazed at the difference I felt seeing people because I hadn’t spoken with many people during lockdown, there were times that I thought I was going mad but as soon as I went back to Shared Reading I thought, that’s it, we can make it through this. I have really enjoyed going back to the group, we have different conversations each week. We never know who is going to be there and who isn’t, I love to talk and get the chance to say what I think about what we have read, it's super and we get a lovely cup of tea and a biscuit. Dirk makes a good cup of tea!

"Sometimes when you walk into a room full of people at my age  you don’t know, it can be a bit daunting"
I re-joined a very well established group, it’s not easy to walk into a group like this but everyone has made me very welcome and I can’t say that I feel the odd one out. The group has helped me and given me a bit of confidence back. I am quite comfortable walking in and saying hello because that can be very frightening, sometimes when you walk into a room full of people at my age  you don’t know, it can be a bit daunting but our group is very welcoming.  

I enjoy our group and I  look forward to it every week. I am very restricted and can’t get out easily but one of the Reader Leaders picks me up every week and takes me the very short journey to the group.  

Because my short term memory is shot, I can’t remember from one week to the next what we have read but a while ago, Sue, the group leader brought in a poem, it was beautiful and I was so affected by it.

To Those Whom I Love & Those Who Love Me 

When I am gone, release me, let me go.
I have so many things to see and do,
You mustn't tie yourself to me with too many tears,
But be thankful we had so many good years. 

I gave you my love, and you can only guess
How much you've given me in happiness.
I thank you for the love that you have shown,
But now it is time I travelled on alone. 

So grieve for me a while, if grieve you must,
Then let your grief be comforted by trust.
It is only for a while that we must part,
So treasure the memories within your heart. 

I won't be far away for life goes on.
And if you need me, call and I will come. 

Though you can't see or touch me, I will be near.
And if you listen with your heart, you'll hear,
All my love around you soft and clear. 

And then, when you come this way alone,
I'll greet you with a smile and a 'Welcome Home'.                                    

Helen Lowrie Marshall 

When we read this poem, there were a few of us who were very affected by the words. It struck a chord. I have decided I am going to write a note to each of my three children and leave this poem in the letter that they will receive after I have died. It means so much to me.

"I was on the road to ruin, but now I am not"
The Shared Reading group is a lifeline to me, I can’t read a book anymore because I can’t take in what I am reading, however I do read the Bible every day and have a thing that reminds me to read and where I am up to but as soon as I open the page I can forget where I'm up to, it’s so frustrating. The biggest thing of all is that I can no longer do crosswords, I used to love doing them but now I can’t recall any of my former knowledge to do them, my memory is wiped out and I am sure that is a result of being locked in. 

I know my daughters were very concerned because I was on the road to ruin, but now I am not, I can talk quiet happily in the Shared Reading group until someone tells me to shut up. I would have been lost without the group, it meant so much to me to see other people. Don’t ask me what we read in the group yesterday because I can’t remember, it’s horrible and frightening. I used to love reading and would read two or three books a week. Now, I’ve read one book since we came out of lockdown and have lost all interest in reading because I can't remember. The short story that we read in the Shared Reading group is very helpful, because there are others around, we usually get the gist of what it’s about and have a good discussion. Occasionally I have got lost half way through it, but I don’t sit quiet, I tell the group they have lost me and they help me to join in again, this means so much to me.  

I live in a sheltered accommodation and we have a shared lounge and I found it really difficult to go in the lounge now, before the lockdown I was doing all sorts and this type of thing wouldn’t have bothered me, I don’t think people realise the damage lockdown has done to people like me. Thanks goodness for the Shared Reading group, they are wonderful and caring. I’ve told loads of people about Shared Reading and tell them that we have a good discussion about what we have read and there is a good caring atmosphere between all the people who go. Everyone should join a group!

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