Sunflower Memories: Alyson’s story

After Alyson McKenna’s partner, Mitch, was supported by Pilgrims Hospices, she now dedicates a sunflower in his memory as part of the charity’s Sunflower Memories campaign. Here, Alyson shares how joining together with others helps to bring her some peace.

Mitch was a kind, fun-loving, friendly, beautiful and generous man. Almost on a daily basis, he would surprise me with flowers, chocolate, a day out or any other wonderful thing that he could do to make us happy. He was a wonderful chef and loved his dogs immensely.

The first flowers he brought me were sunflowers and the first photo he sent me was of him holding them. The fact that as a single flower they stand tall, show colour, beauty and strength, you can’t help but smile when you see them.

The day brings me happiness and sadness, but seeing all of the other sunflowers and the people looking at them brings a touch of peace.


Mitch passed away on 13 July 2014. On 25 July, my 50th birthday, I had bright colours and sunflowers as a gesture to him at his funeral.

Because the hospice had my contact details, they sent me a letter a month later about starting a sunflower appeal to raise money. I cried at such a wonderful idea and as it was so personal to me, I obviously took part.

Although the display has differed over the four years, the meaning remains the same. The memories of our loved ones who tried to stay strong are represented by these beautiful individual flowers of strength, courage and beauty.

On each of the sunflower plaques I have collected from the appeal, I have written the year and will do so for as long as the event continues. The day brings me happiness and sadness, but seeing all of the other sunflowers and the people looking at them brings a touch of peace. It’s very special to hold an event for the family and friends of those who have left us. There’s a complete sense of understanding between everyone there.

When I see sunflowers, I think of Mitch. I recently purchased a beautiful silver sunflower pendant based on Van Gogh’s painting from the National Gallery, which I wear every day.

Thank you so much for holding the beautiful Sunflower Memories days.

Sunflower Memories events will take place at our hospices in July 2019:

  • Canterbury, Saturday 27 July, 11am – 1pm
  • Thanet, Saturday 27 July, 2pm – 4pm
  • Ashford, Sunday 28 July, 2pm – 4pm

If you’d like to dedicate a sunflower in memory of a loved one please visit or contact Sara or Ellie on 01227 782 066.

If you or someone you know is coping with a life limiting illness and you think you may benefit from Pilgrims free services, talk to your GP or Healthcare Professional about your options or click here to read about our Wellbeing and Social Programme.