17th June 2014

Dignity, comfort, fun and laughter

Luke tells of his personal experience of St Richard’s Hospice.

I have always been touched by the work that hospices do and, with friends, we have completed many challenges over the years to help raise money.

However, I unfortunately now have first-hand experience, and I can say now that I have always massively underestimated just how important hospices are.

My Dad spent the last few days of his life at St Richard’s hospice almost exactly a year ago. Clearly this was a devastating time for the family as someone so close was taken by a brutal cancer way before his time.

Nothing I can say can suitably explain how St Richards helped my dad and my family but I’ll try.

Once we got the dreaded news that there was nothing more that the hospital could do and he had around 2 weeks left, our world started caving in. Dad was on a typical hospital ward with lots of noise, people and a lack of privacy. He took the news very bravely but I could see he was getting agitated being there. There were limited visiting times, and little things were starting to frustrate him, including the very vocal patient next to him.

The hospital did a great job but once it was established there was nothing more that could be done, St Richard’s stepped in and took  him to this little oasis.

He had his own room, we could stay as long as we wanted (even overnight towards the end), we played all his favourite music (including his favourite Bob Dylan – sometimes a little too loud). We watched cricket, spent time on his own private patio next to the pond and we celebrated his granddaughter’s (my daughter) 3rd birthday there. During this he also had absolutely amazing nursing care, and all the little details were sorted out; his Will, haircut, even a curry delivered!

I think the main thing it allowed us to do was to come to terms with what was going to happen and for everyone to be at peace with it. Looking back now it seems odd but even the conversations around music for the funeral seemed very easy. My Dad always had a great sense humour and when I asked him what songs he would like he said “Alright now by The Free”. He then thought about and said “I can’t have that as I won’t be alright, I’ll be dead” then he said “actually that would be quite funny so Alright now it is!”

This may sound strange but I really enjoyed those few days, I have some good memories and things would have been very different without St Richard’s Hospice. The support once my dad passed away was also great with even the offer of counselling for as long as required. It is difficult to explain how much this all meant to us, some of it may even sound trivial but throughout the darkest time, we had dignity, comfort, fun and laughter.

I certainly think that it’s not until you experience it (and hopefully you won’t!), that you can really understand how important hospices are, and it’s outrageous that these hospices have to rely on charitable donations but I guess that’s another story.

One final note my experience when I was walking to reception for the first time, I remember thinking this is it; this is where people come to die. I now know that it’s not, people go there to live, to spend quality time with their families and to get the care they deserve during those precious times.