Sunflower Memories: Jacqueline’s story

After Jacqueline Spencer’s husband, David, was cared for at Pilgrims Hospice Canterbury in 2015, she now dedicates a sunflower in his memory as part of the charity’s Sunflower Memories campaign.

Here, Jacqueline shares how this helps her to remember David and come together with others who have experienced Pilgrims’ care.


David was a keen gardener and loved being outside pottering around and feeling the fresh air on his face. After he had an epileptic fit in his thirties, he was unable to work and so our roles reversed. David became a house husband, raising our two children Tami and Neil, looking after the house and cooking lots of delicious meals. He came from a big family and was one of 16 children!

He was a real home-loving man, although we loved our holidays too. We travelled a lot together once the children had grown up, visiting Kenya, Bali, Sri Lanka, Gambia and India, to name a few. It was always important to us to make lots of memories and to see the world together.

Sunflower Memories is such a lovely day, where you can take time to remember your loved one whilst being surrounded by others who have gone through the same thing. You don’t even need to say anything to each other, there’s just a silent understanding of what each other has gone through and all of the emotions that come with it.

Jacqueline

In August 2014, David was diagnosed with lymphoma of the brain and taken to a specialist hospital up in London. He would spend almost the next year of his life there on an isolation ward receiving treatment. Although he was cared for wonderfully, David missed the outdoors and his beloved garden. On the 23 July 2015 we celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary at the hospital, and the day after David was transferred down to the hospice in Canterbury.

David had said he just wanted to go home, and whilst the hospice wasn’t our home, it felt so much more like it. He had his own room with doors that opened out onto the beautiful gardens, and this made all the difference to him. He seemed so at peace whilst at the hospice, and was able to feel the fresh air on his face once again. It was such a pleasant and calm environment for all of us to be in and so much easier to visit David.

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The hospice was just the most a welcoming place for the whole family to be; on one occasion, David’s 8-year-old niece, Amelia, came to visit him. It was so lovely to have her there and she didn’t feel scared or upset at all as the hospice allowed her to relax, have a go on the piano, and play with the toys they provide. Everyone could just act as naturally as they would at home, and feel comfortable in doing so. It’s all of these little extra things and the lengths the staff go to, which make the hospice such a special place. Nothing was ever too much trouble, we were always kept updated about David’s condition and were allowed to stay overnight with him whenever we wanted.

I attended my first Sunflower Memories day in 2018 with my daughter and son-in-law, having previously attended the Trees of Love service. Sunflower Memories is such a lovely day, where you can take time to remember your loved one whilst being surrounded by others who have gone through the same thing. You don’t even need to say anything to each other, there’s just a silent understanding of what each other has gone through and all of the emotions that come with it. The care provided by the hospice is simply amazing – even at the Sunflower Memories days you are truly looked after and still made to feel special by the staff and volunteers.

I’m looking forward to attending Sunflower Memories once again this year, and to taking my special sunflower plaque for David home with me to keep.


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 pilgrimshospices.org/sunflowers 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.