Christine Ford’s husband, Richard (Dick), was supported by Pilgrims Hospices at the end of his life, so she now dedicates a sunflower in his memory as part of the charity’s Sunflower Memories campaign.
Here, Christine shares why sunflowers are so special to her.
Well, who doesn’t love a sunflower? The most beautiful, cheerful and amazing of all flowers. From dainty little bush varieties to the gigantic specimens loved by competitive types, we all have a space for a sunflower in our hearts. So, the concept of sunflowers as the symbol of remembrance for Pilgrims was genius.
My husband, Dick, was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer from a pretty-well asymptomatic start, but it was always clear that we were only looking to palliative care. We had three amazing years, which apart from the first few months of chemo, were almost like normal life!
We’d always planned to get a caravan and travel in Europe on retirement. Cancer disrupted our plans, but not entirely. By year three, we just upped and spent most of our time in Spain, as peripheral neuropathy was a bit miserable in our cold damp winters. We drove down in November and flew home every three weeks for chemo. We often chatted and marveled at how much we’d achieved, despite our ages and Dick’s cancer.
But it had to end, of course. Fortunately for us, it was not a long, protracted time. He went downhill quickly and a chat with the pain management team prepared us and helped us plan. In the last two nights, I had him at home with me; the team chatted to me through the wee small hours, pushing my fears back, and helping me not to panic. When they sent the nurse to assess Richard, she crawled up on the bed next to him, held his hand, and made sure he understood what was happening.
From dainty little bush varieties to the gigantic specimens loved by competitive types, we all have a space for a sunflower in our hearts. So, the concept of sunflowers as the symbol of remembrance for Pilgrims was genius.
When the hospice ambulance collected us and took us off to Canterbury, one of the team looked at the photo of our granddaughters by the bed and said, “Bring them along” – a thought and gesture so deep in understanding that only their long experience could bring. The time in Canterbury was hardly 24 hours; time for Dick’s son to get to him from Brisbane and be there to chat to his dad. We were both there with him, holding his hands, to the end. We couldn’t have done it without the Pilgrims team.
So, there you have it. Sunflowers have been part of our lives – cycling through France, riding trains through Northern Europe, popping up unexpectedly in the garden (thanks to the birds) and featuring in bouquets to celebrate all sorts of occasions. You cannot help but smile at a sunflower. Such bright, enthusiastic and optimistic symbols of life. And now they still bring a smile.
Sunflower Memories events will take place at our hospices in Ashford, Canterbury and Thanet on Saturday 30 July 2022.
If you’d like to dedicate a sunflower in memory of a loved one, please visit pilgrimshospices.org/sunflowers.
If you’d prefer to remember from home, please visit our online Memory Wall where you can post pictures and messages in honour of your loved one as part of our annual summer remembrance.