My wonderful husband Paul passed away a year ago on 22 November. It feels like an eternity, we miss him so terribly. Yet somehow a year passes and there is an anniversary, which awakens such intense and raw memories of those last few days with this incredible man. He was brave and so beautifully gracious throughout his battle with cancer.
Paul stayed at The Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted for the six days before he died. To talk about where you are going to die is very difficult, yet he managed to express what he wanted; to be in a place where he could look out of a window and see trees. He was such an ‘outside man’ and he asked that he could watch nature in those last few days.
The moment we arrived at the hospice Paul was held, we all were as a family. Not only was his physical pain taken away, his mental anguish was greatly eased. He was given a level of comfort and care for which I will always remain grateful. We were not in a ‘hospital’ we were ‘at home.’ Paul looked out of his window and saw a woodpecker at the bird feeders, frost on the beautifully tended gardens and wildlife which is actively encouraged by the hospice.
Paul was listened to properly by every single nurse and the wonderful doctors. They showed love, respect and compassion. As his wife I felt protective over Paul but here I was put at ease and felt understood, so very important when the situation you are in is frightening and intensely sad. Yet we laughed! We watched films and we talked. Our young sons George and Archie went backwards and forwards to Paul’s room with messages and kisses for him. The nurses talked to the boys so kindly and encouraged this freedom.
Family and friends were made to feel so welcome and relaxed. There were no time scales, just comfort and space to talk freely and openly in a warm and home environment. Yet privacy was ultimately respected.
Paul was given dignity, true dignity, at the hospice. He passed away peacefully, in no pain, with me by his side. This gave us all such comfort, that somehow the impossible had been made possible in this amazing hospice.
In the weeks after Paul had passed away, George and Archie spent time in The Spring Centre, which is part of The Hospice of St Francis. Their individual needs were met by two wonderful ladies. They were counselled through play, talk and by spending time in the gardens and woodland. They were invited to pony ride days and the Christmas party. Even though the boys have reached a time where they can step forward, the door has remained open at the hospice for them, and for me. We receive letters and recently a beautifully worded card remembering Paul’s passing a year ago.
The Hospice of St Francis is a place of light, love and positivity. Yet there is sensitivity and a deep understanding of individual need and the journey that we were on. Saying goodbye hurts so very much, but we were carried beautifully to that final and peaceful moment.
To me, hospice care means that the worry, the responsibility and the pain are lifted from the person who cares desperately about their loved one. My job, my soul purpose was to sit with my husband, love him, cherish him and hold him. The hospice took on my role. They carried Paul and his family. They looked after his body and mind and allowed us to be together in a place where we felt safe without question or fear. If we could all know that when our time to pass comes we would receive the care that Paul received, then I believe the fear that we may have of dying would be eased.
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