For Jane, meeting up with her girlfriends to enjoy a curry was a festive tradition she treasured. So when she was staying at Birmingham St Mary’s inpatient unit, the Hospice made sure that Jane could still enjoy her Christmas tradition by bringing the curry to her. Here, Jane’s husband Gary, explains how continuing a small tradition can make a big difference, even when it’s at the most difficult of times…
Everybody loved Jane. She was the sweetest, kindest person you could ever meet. One of the things I loved most about her was how much she valued spending time with family – family and friends meant everything to her. So as you can imagine, Christmas was a really special time in our home. It was chance to bring everyone together and celebrate – and we really did celebrate!
We had lots of traditions that we enjoyed doing over the festive season. For Jane, some of her favourites including writing Christmas cards to old friends or watching the King’s College choir sing carols on TV. The most important tradition though, was spending time as a family.
I have so many happy memories of Christmas. One of my favourites is when we spent Christmas Day at my brother-in-law’s house. There were 14 of us and at times it was chaos but it was just fantastic to spend that special day together.
So when Jane first came to Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice on 13th December, I was completely heartbroken. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and after a lot of tests, scans and chemotherapy, the hospital told us there was nothing more they could do. I was just devastated.
I know being at a hospice is never a normal situation but spending time here over the festive season – a time when we are so used to being at home and surrounded by loved ones – was really tough. That’s where the doctors and nurses were just brilliant though. Not only did they make Jane feel comfortable, safe and reassured, but they were so thoughtful and considerate towards the whole family’s emotions too.
When the nurses heard about some of our festive family traditions, they really encouraged us to keep them going. One of the things that Jane loved doing was having a curry and catch up with her girlfriends just before Christmas Day itself. Unfortunately, Jane was too poorly to go to their usual restaurant but that didn’t stop them. Instead, the nurses helped the girls to bring the curry to her. So one evening, they all sat down together with Jane and enjoyed their samosas, drinks and giggles. I know it may seem like such a small gesture but it meant so much to Jane and her friends.
On Christmas Day, we always enjoyed a festive feast as a family – and we wanted to make sure that it was no different when Jane was staying at the Hospice. We asked the nurses if we could host a small party in the conservatory and I’m so glad they said yes. Everyone was there – our two daughters, Lucy and Emily, Jane’s Mum, and her sister and brother-in-law. We all brought in some nibbles and drinks and despite the circumstances, we had a really lovely day. That was to be my last ever Christmas with Jane and I am so grateful that we got to spend it together, surrounded by our family, having a good time.
When Jane passed away in the New Year, it was the hardest time of my life. But thankfully, the Hospice was still there to support me and my family. I received bereavement counselling which helped a lot – I really don’t think I could have got through it without that support.
As Christmas now approaches, I can’t help but remember all the little traditions that Jane and our family used to have. I will always miss doing them with her but I feel so comforted to know that we were able to do them that one last time, together and with our family.
Thank you Gary for sharing your Christmas traditions with us. This Christmas Day, Birmingham St Mary’s will care for 400 people and their families living with life-limiting illness. Just £20 could help fund tasty Christmas meals for people being cared for at the hospice over the festive period.
If you would like to show you ‘Care at Christmas’, you can get involved by taking a look here. With your generous support, you can make sure that local families, like Gary’s and Jane’s, have one last Christmas they can treasure.