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“They made one of the hardest moments of my life just a little more bearable”

16 October 2019

Finding out that Rob had lost his sight was heart-breaking. Discovering that the tumour that caused this was terminal – just unbearable.

I remember that moment vividly. After months of tests, consultations and various diagnoses, that moment would start another heart-breaking journey for us all. Just four months earlier I had said goodbye to my Mother, I couldn’t have imagined the months that were about to follow. I certainly wasn’t prepared to lose my husband too.

Life felt so cruel, how was I going to cope with such grief?

We contacted Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice and within just a matter of days, Debbie from their Community Team started visiting us at home.

Debbie didn’t just help with clinical care, she supported Rob in ways we never thought imaginable – she became a friend, a helping hand to lift Rob up when life felt impossible. What I didn’t expect was the care I would receive. I was given a line of support too; Debbie instinctively knew what we were going through and how to help ease our pain.

Quite suddenly, Rob’s condition deteriorated. When told he had just days to live, Rob knew he wanted to spend them at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, surrounded by ‘Team Harbourne’.

It’s what Rob called us, his ‘team’ and during our stay at the Hospice, the staff became a part of that team too. The compassion and respect given to Rob and my family, was incredible. They were there by our side for the entire journey.

Keeping Rob comfortable meant more than the necessary medical care a Hospice provides. It meant playing his favourite radio station, Smooth FM, so he was never alone when he woke. It was a comforting call in the early hours, just to hear each other’s voice.

Most importantly they gave us the strength to celebrate my birthday with Rob, one last time. The most precious gift they could provide – a slice of normality in difficult times.

Sadly, Rob lost his fight on December 17th, just before Christmas. It was the most calm and peaceful time. Every last wish was granted, every sentiment perfect; which made one of the hardest moments of my life just a little more bearable.

Chris, one of the nursing staff, removed a necklace I had gifted to Rob on the day before our wedding and placed it around my neck. I can’t describe how that one small gesture made me feel, the sense of such loss and pain combined with the warmth and kindness will never leave me.

That care was still there beyond his last breath and continues today. It’s so comforting to know I can pick up the phone and talk to them whatever the time. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about Rob. But it’s this time of year when I miss him the most. Which is why the annual Light up a Life appeal is so important to me.

This year, Birmingham St Mary’s celebrates 40 years of caring for our community, since they opened their doors back in 1979. This very same year, Rob and I exchanged our vows on one of our happiest days together, our wedding day – making this season of remembrance with Light up a Life particularly poignant.

Along with ‘Team Harbourne’ many families will be remembering their loved ones this Christmas. When you make a donation to Light up a Life, not only will you help people living with a terminal illness, you’ll also remember your special loved ones.

Thank you Cal for sharing your story with us. If you would like to join Cal this Christmas and remember your loved one at this special time of year, you can do so by coming along to one of our poignant Light up a Life events.