A great grandmother who died from ovarian cancer will be among hundreds who will be remembered at this years Light Up a Life celebrations hosted by St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice.
Jo Love, 57, will dedicate a light on the Tree of Life to her Mum Jean DaSilva, 77, during the Lincoln celebration which will see hundreds of people take part in a torchlight procession on Tuesday 25th November.
Jo said: “In 2006 Mum was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, she had already beaten the disease back in 1998, and the fact it had returned made it all the harder to accept.
“Mum managed quite well at first but by Christmas 2008 she had become very unwell and was taken into hospital. Despite the circumstances we all tried to remain hopeful that she would return home with help from a care package.
“However it soon became apparent that this wasn’t going to happen. She was continuing to deteriorate and it was suggested that she move to the hospice where she would receive dedicated care.
“It was like falling into a black hole. I heard the word hospice and I was frightened, really frightened. In my mind the hospice was a dark place where people went to die.”
Despite her fears Jo agreed and Jean was transferred to the specialist unit. What waited behind the hospice doors couldn’t have been more of a surprise.
Jo added: “The hospice was nothing like I had imagined. We were immediately put at ease by the warm and welcoming staff and Mum was given a lovely room that overlooked the garden. I felt safe here and knew that Mum was in the right place.
“Up until this point I had been living in denial about Mum’s condition and it was the staff who helped to prepare me for the fact the she only had a short time left to live. They supported me every step of the way as I vowed to stay by her side for every second she had left. The hospice became my home.
“The nurses were so kind and understanding, they became my friends, I felt I could talk to them about anything. Even when I found myself at my lowest ebb and I had to go to a separate room and just sob they picked me up again so that I was strong enough to carry on.”
Jean DaSilva died on 15th February 2008 after spending three weeks in the hospice on Nettleham Road in Lincoln.
“I knew the night before she died that she didn’t have long left. I sat awake with her all night and then was joined by the rest of the family the following morning. We were together as a family and as I held her in my arms she quietly slipped away.
“This was the end of such an awful time but I wasn’t quite ready to let go yet. The nurses were so sensitive to how I was feeling and they gave me some time alone with Mum, to hold her hand and say a final goodbye.”
Jo began attending the Lincoln Light Up a Life celebrations the Christmas after Jean had died. The annual event sees hundreds gather for hymns, carols and readings before a torchlight procession to Lincoln Cathedral for the switching on of the Tree of Life lights.
Jo said: “Light Up a Life has become such an important date in the calendar for me, nothing could keep me away. It’s such an incredibly moving event, everyone is there to remember someone special and there is real comfort in knowing you are not alone in the sadness you feel.
“Last year the procession stopped outside the hospice and we stood and sang carols to the patients who wrapped up warm and came out with the nurses. There was something very special about that moment; it simply took my breath away.
“It is truly awe inspiring to witness a sea of torchlight as far as the eye can see. Best of all I know my Mum would have loved the whole thing. She absolutely adored Christmas and in a way I feel a real closeness to Mum at the event. It’s just so her. I do it for her.”
Last year over 1,200 people turned out for the Light Up a Life celebrations and raised £35,000 for St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice.
Jo concludes: “It’s a sad time for anyone if you find yourself needing hospice care, but the hospice provides comfort and guidance through that sad time. It’s not a dark place at all and the time I spent there with Mum was so special.
“They didn’t treat her like she was just another patient, they treated her like the lady she was, and they treated her like she was special. I know that if I ever found myself in the position where I needed to use hospice services I wouldn’t be frightened at all.”
Light Up a Life celebrations are held across Lincolnshire with the flaming torchlight procession taking place in Lincoln.