Sue’s mum, Anne, was cared for at the Hospice during Christmas 2019 and died on Christmas Day.
This year Sue is kindly sharing her memories and experiences to support our Christmas appeal, and show just what the Hospice’s care meant to her and her family.
Mum was a nurse for many years. She was a really fun person, and very adventurous. Aged 20 she went to live in Canada and nursed in many of the children’s hospitals there. Mum raised me, my older brother and younger sister by herself, and we’re a very close family. Growing up, Christmas was more about family and food than about gifts. Mum made a big effort to maintain our festive family traditions for her grandchildren.
The first sign of Mum’s illness was a sore tongue. Eighteen months after she first saw a consultant, she was diagnosed with tongue cancer. Very quickly this progressed. Her dementia made it harder for us to manage her cancer care at home.
When Mum moved to the Hospice, we had time to spend with her without having to worry about all the day-to-day things that we might have worried about if she’d been at home. The staff were on hand for anything we needed, so we had that reassurance the whole time.
The Hospice felt particularly special at Christmas time. Everywhere was decorated and there was a lovely Christmas tree in the family room. The staff were wearing Christmas earrings and lots of donations had been made of mince pies and sweets. One of the healthcare assistants had hurt her ankle and was told she shouldn’t really be working, but she was so desperate to come in and work. It was amazing to think that the doctors, nurses and other clinical staff who run the Hospice’s In-Patient Unit were willing to give up time with their own families to support everybody else.
A couple of days before she died, Mum decided she wanted to go into the family room to see the Christmas tree. She stood looking at it for a while. Reaching out, she pinched one of the baubles off the tree and put it in her little bag! After that she went back to her bed, and gave us all a kiss. It was the school holidays, so my brother, sister and I had our partners and children there. That was actually the last time Mum was conscious. Without knowing, she got to say goodbye to us all.
Mum died on Christmas Day about 7pm. I didn’t realise what date it was. It was only the next day when I was phoning the undertakers, who were closed, that I realised. I felt really angry as I thought, “I’m never going to be able to forget the day she died.” But I realised that mum dying on Christmas Day meant I would usually always be together with my family to remember her.
The Hospice is an even more special place for us now. It’s somewhere that we can come and think of Mum, where we all really feel her presence.
I don’t think people realise how important fundraising is to provide the specialist care that Mum was lucky enough to receive. Mum was just one of many, many local people who have been cared for here.
Thank you for reading my story,