31st May 2018

Patient joy at sharing daughter’s pre-wedding blessing

A mother receiving palliative care was overjoyed to share in her daughter’s pre-wedding blessing – thanks to our hospice team.

Jan Sewell, from Harvington, near Kidderminster, is currently being cared for at the St Richard’s Hospice In-patient Unit in Worcester.

The hospice team rallied round to ensure that Ms Sewell could enjoy a special day with her daughter Sally McCullagh at a pre-wedding blessing with husband-to-be Oliver Horton.

The special ceremony took place as the late evening sun was setting in the beautiful hospice gardens. Ms Sewell picked a purple clematis flower from the garden to wear in a tiara for the occasion.

Ms Sewell walked her daughter from her hospice bedroom through the gardens to meet the waiting friends and family, including Jan’s brother Tim who had flown in from America and her 87 year old mother who had made the special journal from Northumberland.  Miss McCullagh was joined by her sister Amy, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Hospice chaplain Clare Griffiths led the non-religious ceremony with readings and blessed Sally’s flowers and the ribbons around them. The bouquet was given to Ms Sewell and the ribbons will be part of the up and coming wedding at Coombe Lodge in Somerset at the end of June.

Miss McCullagh, who lives in Somerset, said, “We couldn’t have made this happen on our own. It started as a gentle suggestion by a member of the hospice staff and chalplain Clare and the team rallied around to organise everything in three days. Nothing was a problem and they just said, we’re here to make every day as meaningful as possible. I had been concerned that the blessing would have been a disruption to the vital care of St Richard’s patients and the amazing work that the staff undertake.

“However this could not have been further from the truth. One of Mum’s nurses was able to join us and be part of the blessing which was really special and other nurses and even patients came out to watch from over the pond. For days after everyone was asking about the blessing. It’s wonderful that so many people were so supportive – it created a real buzz.”

Her mum added, “It was all so wonderful and I felt so honoured. The best moment for me was when we walked slowly through the gardens having time to talk and enjoy the early evening sun on this monumental day. We then joined the family, being greeted by Oliver and I handed over Sally to him for the blessing. It was incredibly memorable and very special to have been given this privilege by the hospice team, set within the wonderful gardens of St Richard’s.”

Ms Sewell, who has cervical cancer, praised the hospice for her care. “The staff have helped control my pain and other requirements and given me reassurance and support every step of the way. They understand the complexities of my illness and the journey I am on.” She said her first whirlpool bath in the hospice was such a simple thing but ‘stunning.’

Miss McCullagh added, “Every step of the way, we are supported, and cared for. Staff take time to really understand how you feel and what else they can do, not just for Mum, but us as a family too.  Everyone is so positive – the hospice is about positive living and making days matter. It feels like some of the staff have become part of our extended family now. We have also found time to enjoy simple things together as a family – at times we have managed to make each other laugh and have come to realise what’s really important in life.”

Following the blessing the couple and guests enjoyed a vegan and gluten free, lemon polenta cake with berries which had been made by the hospice catering team.

St Richard’s Hospice provides free specialist palliative and end of life care for patients living with life-limiting illnesses and supports their loved ones. Each year the hospice team supports more than 3,300 patients, family members and bereaved people in Worcestershire.

The hospice strives to provide the best medical, practical, emotional and social support they can to help people live life to the fullest, as independently as they can, for as long as they can. They care for people with a range of illnesses including heart failure, Parkinson’s, and motor neurone disease as well as cancer.

St Richard’s is an independent charity and relies on donations for three quarters of its annual £8.8m income with the remainder from the NHS.

St Richard’s has launched the Build 2020 Appeal which aims to raise the final £1.4m needed to build a bigger hospice, enabling more patients and families to be cared for in Worcestershire.  The total cost for expanding and redeveloping the existing building in Wildwood Drive, Worcester, is £5.3m.