“Christmas is a time for family. If you have lost someone, that’s when you notice the empty chair or the present you aren’t buying. Remembering that person with a light will help you through a difficult time of year, whilst enabling St Barnabas Hospice to care for those most vulnerable.”
Christmas wouldn’t be the same without our traditions, and I want to tell you about a very special tradition from St Barnabas Hospice to help people like you and me remember loved ones at this difficult time of year. When my fiancé, Rachael died, I lost all interest in Christmas for a while. St Barnabas has shown me how to celebrate her life each Christmas in the way she deserves.
Rachael was just 24 when doctors told her she had months to live. We had only got engaged the year before and moved into our first house, so the news hit us like a torpedo. We had gone from planning our future together to facing the shock that our future would now just last several months.
Watching Rachael go downhill over the next few months simply broke my heart. Her confidence was shattered, and I felt helpless. This was when St Barnabas Hospice stepped in.
Rachael moved into the Hospice in Lincoln at a point when we thought she had just days to live. I remember popping out one day and returning to find her sat up in bed with a sausage sandwich. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Over the next few weeks my Rachael came back to me – pain management, physiotherapy, and specialist care all helping to bring her confidence back.
I stayed every single night in the Hospice with Rachael after the nurses kindly pushed two beds together so I could hold her as we slept.
With St Barnabas’s help, Rachael reached a point where she could go on day trips and then eventually come home for a few days. You may know already that St Barnabas is more than just one building. Because of their incredible Hospice at Home team, Rachael had all the equipment she needed and was at home for my birthday. She even had the strength to organise me a surprise party which was such a special and memorable moment for me.
Sadly, Rachael suffered a stroke whilst at home and the Hospice arranged for her to go straight back in for end-of-life care. The cancer was in her brain and the end was near.
Rachael passed away on 11th February 2013.
I will be eternally grateful to everyone at St Barnabas Hospice who supported us through Rachael’s illness. Even after her death they were there for me and Rachael’s family – nothing was ever too much trouble.
I knew of the Light up a Life campaign through my job in the fire service and had previously spent many years supporting the beautiful Torchlight Procession, as hundreds of people walked through Lincoln carrying flaming torches in memory of loved ones. I remember the hairs standing up on the back of my neck as I watched the procession move towards Lincoln Cathedral. That was before I had even lost anybody.
After losing Rachael, Light up a Life took on a whole new meaning for me. I found I could dedicate a light in her memory to shine brightly on the Tree of Life each year. Rachael was the light of my life every single day and this tribute seems so fitting.
This Christmas, St Barnabas Hospice is once again helping people like you and me to remember loved ones in a very special way. I am inviting you to dedicate your light for a loved one so they can join Rachael on the beautiful Tree of Life outside the Cathedral. A donation of just £70.10 could cover the cost of five hours of care from remote-working nurses who care for a patient in their own home.
You can remember anyone with a light, not just those cared for by the Hospice. As a thank you and token for your loved one, St Barnabas will send you a personalised card and special tree decoration in the post. You will also be invited to attend the virtual Torchlight Procession in November, which will be taking place online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Your donation for a light could pay for more people like Rachael to receive pain management and specialist end-of-life care when the time comes. It could support families like ours during the darkest days and help our nurses continue their care for some of the most vulnerable people during this pandemic.
When Rachael was in the Hospice, she would talk about Biscuit – the rabbit I gave her as a surprise Christmas present one year, who she absolutely adored. Biscuit and I now look back on that special Christmas with fond memories, grateful to know how much it meant to her.
Please join me in shining a light to remember someone special this Christmas. The world is a scary place for many right now and I know that the lights of our loved ones will give people hope for better times. If you want to honour your loved one with a light, please fill in the form below and post it back to St Barnabas Hospice.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story.