For Dennis, Christmas is a time for family, music and fantastic festive feasts. Here, he shares his favourite Christmas traditions and how Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice is supporting him to continue to enjoy them at this special time of year.
Music is a big part of my life. I volunteered at a church for over 18 years and would often sing at services and ceremonies, as well as at weddings, birthday celebrations and funerals. So it’s no surprise that for my family, going to concerts is one of our favourite Christmas traditions.
One standout memory was a little before Christmas, when my stepdaughter Claudette and I performed at a gospel concert in Birmingham. It was a joint Christmas and birthday celebration for my wife and all our friends and family had come along to watch and celebrate the day with us. I felt so proud as I stood next to Claudette on that stage to sing together. There were lots of happy tears after that performance and it was lovely that all our loved ones were there for that special moment.
Aside from music, enjoying a Christmas feast and spending time with loved ones are my other favourite festive traditions. I used to work as a chef and weeks before Christmas, I would start preparing a traditional, Christmas pudding. Then on Christmas Day, we would do the usual of pouring the brandy over and lighting it at the table – everyone used to look forward to that bit!
Because of my illness though, my wife now does the cooking on Christmas Day. She does a fantastic feast – turkey, sprouts, parsnips, veg and most importantly, roast potatoes that are well-done. All the family come round to enjoy dinner, including my five children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. It’s lovely to get everyone together and actually sit down and enjoy our conversations. Everyone is so busy these days, so it’s good to have that quality time together.
Before Christmas, a tradition that has developed over the years is hiding presents from my wife, Laverne. She’s a nightmare for hunting them down and she would definitely open them if she found them! Thankfully, I’ve managed to work out few good hiding spaces that she’s yet to find – so I can still surprise her with gifts on the day. I love giving gifts to others and it’s always a pleasure to watch Laverne’s face when she’s opening them.
With my recent diagnosis, this year has been a difficult one for my family and I. Thankfully though – despite everything we’ve been through – I’m still able to look forward to spending the festive season with my family. Going to Birmingham St Mary’s Day Hospice has been brilliant in supporting me to focus on living well, helping me to enjoy special events like Christmas.
Thanks to the nurses, therapists and generous volunteers at the Day Hospice, I have learned some new skills that help me to manage my symptoms – such as breathing techniques and gentle exercises. They’ve been incredibly useful in making sure that I can remain independent, meaning I can stay at home this Christmas surrounded by my family and enjoying the festive traditions we’ve come to love.
Thank you Dennis for sharing your favourite Christmas traditions with us! Here at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, we know that Christmas is full of little traditions that make you realise how special life can be. That’s why we’re asking you to give local families who are living with life-limiting illness another Christmas they can treasure.
If you’d like to help us support more people like Dennis, you can make a donation to our Hospice by clicking here.
To find out more about our Day Hospice or the 12-week therapeutic programme, please visit www.birminghamhospice.org.uk/coming-here