3 May 2024

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Abi and Alfie’s story

Baby Alfie provides a new focus for mum Abi as well as a permanent reminder of her own mum Margaret.

Abi & Alfie Jones blessing

Three months after Margaret Jones died at St Christopher’s, Alfie, the grandson she named but never lived to meet, was blessed at the hospice in a special service overseen by hospice chaplain Andrew Goodhead.

The ceremony was the idea of Alfie’s mum, Abi, who knew it was what her mother would have wanted.

“Because Mum couldn’t be here when he was born I wanted to do something for her,” said Abi, who also has a six-year-old daughter, Isla.

“Andrew was such a shoulder for Mum when she was here and she really appreciated everything he did for her so it just felt like the right thing to do and it was really beautiful.”

“I was there with Mum every day for about a month, pregnant. Mum lived for this baby and just wanted to be there for me and wanted to meet him so much.”

Sadly, Margaret died on 22 December, two months before Alfie was born but only days after Andrew had performed another blessing.

“I don’t think Mum was strongly religious, but she took great comfort from Andrew and he came and saw her most days. So, when I think she knew her time was coming, she asked him if he would give a blessing to her and her partner, Alex.

“They’d never married but Andrew arranged a lovely mini ceremony, Mum got a new outfit, and the hospice really went to town getting beauty people in to do her make-up, nails and hair. It was so nice to see Mum like that.”

The following day Margaret contracted pneumonia and died later that week – almost two years after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos – in Margaret’s case during her work managing buildings for the Ministry of Defence.

Abi remembers her mum’s response when a referral to St Christopher’s was first discussed after doctors at the Royal Marsden said there was no further treatment they could provide.

She adds: “When the hospice was mentioned, she dismissed it, bless her. She thought if you talked about hospice you were just going to die and that was not the outcome she wanted. She wanted to defeat everyone.”

After a few visits at her home in Thornton Heath, from St Christopher’s community nurses to help with pain relief, Margaret’s condition deteriorated and the family had to make a decision in November 2023.

“Mum had been in and out of hospital and did not want to go back there. So, we chose the hospice and it was the best decision we could have made. Right from the start, you only had to say something once and it would be communicated to the whole team.

“She said it was like a home from home for her. To the staff she wasn’t a number or a statistic she was Margaret Jones and she just knew she was in the right place. And Isla, who hated going to see Mum in hospital, always thought it was a nice place to visit.

“The people that work at St Christopher’s are just a different breed too. They are just angels.”

Abi’s connection with the hospice runs deep. Years before Margaret became ill, the son of one of Abi’s friends was cared for there and, in the years since his death, she’s skydived, midnight walked and helped run football matches and auctions – all to raise money for St Christopher’s.

Having experienced the care and support of the hospice first hand, Abi says she know the links are now long term.

“There’s a 100% connection. If I feel I need to be connected to Mum, I go there. St Christopher’s will always be a part of our lives.”

Abi & Alfie Jones blessing

On the day of Alfie’s blessing, Abi proudly took him to meet the nurses who’d been aware of his impending arrival while caring for Margaret.

Tests during her pregnancy pointed to a strong possibility that Alfie would have Downs and that just increased Margaret’s desire and determination to be there to support Abi.

“Every time I look at Alfie I think about Mum and just want to talk about her. We will have our challenges along the way with him and I know Mum wanted to be there to help me.”

It’s been a very challenging couple of years for Abi and her partner Mark, as, in addition to Margaret’s death, Abi’s father died two years ago as did Mark’s last year.

“But when Alfie was born it was like a sort of closure on all the bad stuff and it feels like Mum has given me a healthy boy and is supporting me.”

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