East Lancashire Hospice

Paula Helm

“Six months on from losing my wife, Paula, I keep thinking about the times we shared as she fought pancreatic cancer. Endless chemo appointments, outpatient visits, stays in hospital, and home visits all ate into the precious time we had together, although I now realise that all of this is a necessary part of fighting this illness. Following a prolonged stay in hospital, the word hospice was mentioned for the first time. Perhaps it is my naivety that I always associated hospices with end of life care, but the idea was floated to us that it was a positive step; a place where Paula could spend some time in a more person-centred environment, which was geared towards getting her back to our home.

Her time in the hospice was special; a place where the only rules are: there are no rules. Visiting when you want, breakfast when you wake up, fling the patio doors open and bring the outside inside – that is unless you want to spend time in the gardens. Paula embraced this approach and the difference in her well-being was tangible. There is a reassurance in knowing that the one you love feels at ease and this really showed as we finally got back our precious time together.

Sadly, after about ten days in the hospice and despite showing real improvement, Paula's condition took a turn for the worse, and some three days later she passed away. There is no rehearsal for dying and no script to follow. What the hospice gave us however was time, privacy and warmth; time for loved ones to say their goodbyes, privacy for me to spend the last three days at my beautiful wife's bedside and the warmth that came through the dignity offered to us by staff and volunteers.

I’m aware that our story is not unique. Today and every day people receive exactly the same support from the hospice. It seems convoluted to have a special memory and an affinity to the place where Paula passed away. But the hospice does that to you. Returning on Christmas morning to conduct my brass band in the gardens, I realised it’s about the special moments we shared and in turn allowing those to happen for others.

Grief is very individual and everyone finds their own path through it. For me, it is about doing what I can to support the hospice, and that is what I’m doing.”

Graham Helm