What first springs to mind when you hear the word ‘hospice’? Probably not creativity, companionship and some cracking banter. Well, much to his surprise, that’s exactly what William found at St Christopher’s as he pursed a lifelong love of music. Here, his daughter Denise explains exactly how St Christopher’s became so much more than just a hospice to her, William and the rest of the family.
“I think dad sang before he could speak. He loved music, it was in his DNA. He had music sessions with Mick, one of St Christopher’s Community Artists, and I tell everybody that if you could put that in medicine, you could take all the tablets away. He was a different person when he came out of those sessions. I think the chemistry between Mick and dad was that kind of ‘lad banter’. They would have a bit of chat, dad would pick a song, usually a folk or Irish song, and then Mick would tell a story about that song.
Music was the biggest medicine for dad
“Music was the biggest medicine for dad, but he also had acupuncture, gym sessions, CBT and art sessions. We did quite a few bits of felting on the large quilt hanging in the Anniversary Centre. When you were in the middle of the session you kind of forgot that you were doing art. You were still working on what you were doing, but you were also chatting to people. Dad used to say in the beginning, ‘no no I’m not in to all of that drawing and painting’, but as time went on we found that it was not just the art, but everything else that came with it.
“Dad was diagnosed with cancer and heart, lung and kidney disease back in 2014. When he was first referred to St Christopher’s we were apprehensive, but I always remember one nurse in particular, Tina, what a card! She was just a real injection of life and I think it made him feel a bit easier about coming again. The time the staff and volunteers took to look after dad was just amazing and we made some really lovely friends.
We didn’t understand everything else that comes with [a hospice], the support, the joy
“I don’t think people really understand what that word ‘hospice’ means. I know I certainly didn’t! I thought it meant going to a room to die. We didn’t understand everything else that comes with it, the support, the joy even. I think the joy for me was watching the effect it had on my dad and how lovely everybody was because they treated dad like he was their dad. He could have a laugh with them and talk to them if there was anything worrying him. Dad felt comfortable coming to the hospice, he felt safe.
“I just thank my luck stars that there’s a place like St Christopher’s because I couldn’t have coped without it. Every now and again you’re kind of looking for that help, for someone to say ‘that’s okay’ or ‘that’s normal’, and that’s what I got here. I think St Christopher’s gives you hope, even on a dark, gloomy day there’s a little bit of light.”