“I felt everyone cared for us and it was as if they knew me personally”
As a family we have always been great supporters of the hospice especially my Dad after he lost his dear wife, my Mum, Miriam in 2005. The care she received was second-to-none and the support they showed Dad and the family was as if they knew us personally.
Dad continued to support the hospice after my Mum’s death. He was a regular customer at the coffee shop on Heath Road, often cycling to have his “posh coffee” and chatting to the volunteers.
Our family was then dealt a second blow when Dad was taken poorly and wasn’t able to stay at home. He didn’t hesitate when asked if he wanted to go into the hospice – he knew how well he would be cared for and I was able to trust in the nurses and be there for him as his son.
During his illness, he was actively supervising us to clear his possessions. When asked where he would like them all to go he immediately said ‘to Lizzy’, meaning the hospice.
I’m so very grateful to all the volunteers, nurses and doctors at St Elizabeth Hospice for the dedicated and passionate way in which they cared for Dad. I really don’t think I would have been able to carry on visiting and caring for Dad if the hospice hadn’t been such a welcoming place.
Not only did they look after him but they cared for the entire family whilst we were here. From small things, such as a volunteer making a cup of tea, it made a real difference. We felt so welcomed and it was a safe place to be.
My partner, Yvonne, found the loss of my Dad difficult as her own father was cared for at the hospice 21 years ago after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Although it was tough for Yvonne returning to the hospice, she knew how incredibly kind the volunteers, nurses and staff were during his care and how each one of them made the experience a positive one despite the circumstances.
When we lost dad in August 2019, we knew we wanted to honour his memory by setting up a Tribute Fund to raise vital funds for the hospice and have a place where everyone could donate and raise their own money too.
Yvonne and I also purchased a leaf on the memory tree in the hospice. The day we scattered Dad’s ashes on his birthday, we went to visit the leaf on the tree for the first time. When we arrived, I saw my Mum’s name on a leaf too which Yvonne had secretly purchased. It was quite emotional to see both their names together on the tree and we were able to take some time to reflect quietly before heading home.
Yvonne organised another poignant surprise for my daughter, Stacey, and I at Christmas. We had a shirt of Dad’s that had been washed the day before he died and it kept being moved across the house because we didn’t know what to do with it. Yvonne read about the Material Memories and realised what she could do with the shirt.
She managed to keep it somewhere safe, without me noticing, and surreptitiously picked up things that would work well for the teddy bears, including the emblem for the Royal Engineers, which my Dad was a part of. On Christmas Day, Yvonne surprised Stacey and I with the teddy bears which was so special. It has brought to life something that would have been kept in a drawer for years and it is a lovely way to remember Dad.
We will be lighting a candle for Dad this year because it is about keeping his memory alive. Dad was such a special man and he knew the hospice was a special place. We want to keep that memory and support going.
I think Dad would be proud looking down on us, especially how we have dealt with his passing and how respectful we have been with his belongings.
He may not be here any longer, but his candle will burn brightly!
Brian Reach, son of John Reach