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The Whoseday Book Hardcover – 15 Mar 1999
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Hospice. The dictionary defines it as a house of rest, a home, and traces its origin to the Latin hospitium meaning hospitality or lodging, which in turn relates it to hospes, the word for a host. And by one of those happy double-takes which are part of every language, hospes was also the Latin word for a guest. As usual, the language was coming out ahead. Long before the great religious orders of the Middle Ages opened their own hospices for the traveller and the sufferer, the double meaning of the Latin word was telling people that those in need of sanctuary and those with sanctuary to offer should be bound together in a single mutual venture. As a concept, as a working institution, the hospice acknowledges this deep human need for care and depends upon the human capacity to provide it. It is as ifT.S. Eliot's line, 'The whole earth is our hospital, ' had come marvellously to life. The Irish Hospice Foundation thrives upon the commitment of everyone involved with it. Their efforts show that 'the survival of the fittest' is not the only factor at work in the evolution of our species. Something nobler is in evidence here, something evolving from an equal and opposite and far more radiant vision of mutual protection. The writers and artists contributing to The Whoseday Book want to see that vision realised and generously supported. They want to remind us of that threshold of possibility where what is sympathetic in our nature recognises and embraces what is dependent, and to remind us further that this is a threshold where the two halves of the word jarewell can separate and see themselves again for what they really are, not a parting salute but an encouragement to meet what comes with spirit and force: to fare well. Seamus Heaney Patron
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