28th June 2022

    Sunflower Memories: Deborah’s story

    Deborah Appleton’s dad, Wally, and husband, Pete, each received Pilgrims Hospices’ vital end-of-life care, so she now remembers them as part of the charity’s Sunflower Memories and Trees of Love campaigns.

    Here, Deborah shares why remembering her loved ones in this way is so important.


    Deborah’s dad, Wally

    When Dad started to become ill, my sister and I decided we would care for him at home for as long as we were able. It wasn’t an easy task, we did the best we could but he was going downhill rapidly.

    We sat and talked with him about going into the hospice as we all knew it was only a matter of time. At first he refused to go, then one evening he took a turn for the worse and asked us to ring the hospice. That was the first encounter I had with the hospice; we didn’t know what to expect, how he would be looked after or anything about how it worked.

    We needn’t have worried. The staff at the hospice were absolutely amazing. They explained everything to us in a way we could understand, and each and every one of them treated our dad as though treating one of their own loved ones. The attention, compassion, gentleness and devotion to their patient knew no bounds – not just for Dad, but also for us as a family. They didn’t just care for Dad in a medical way, they were also there with advice and for any help we needed from there on in, reassuring us that they were there for us not just at that time but whenever we felt we needed them. That’s when I realised just how special the people who work at the hospice are.

    That’s what they do at the hospice, they give you a shining light when all you see around you is darkness and despair. That is what the sunflowers represent to me personally.

    Deborah

    So, over the years that have passed the hospice and all of its staff have been a very big and important part of my life. I always love attending the carol service, which was sadly marred by the dreaded COVID outbreak, but the sentiment and feeling was as beautiful as ever. That’s what they do at the hospice, they give you a shining light when all you see around you is darkness and despair.

    That is what the sunflowers represent to me personally. There’s a sunflower quote that says, “Our stories and struggles are all different, but we each deserve to bloom, something will grow from the pain and anguish you are going through, and the something… will be you!”

    Deborah and Pete

    Then last year, the worst news I could ever have expected suddenly took my breath away and ripped my heart and my world to shreds.

    My beautiful husband, best friend, constant companion and confidant, soulmate, twin flame and complete love of my life for the past 40 years was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Within three months I had lost the only man I have ever and will ever love. There was barely a day we were not together; we worked together, played together, laughed, cried, you name it, we did it together.

    My whole life felt like somewhere I didn’t want to be anymore, but we fought the battle together and with the help of my sons and daughter we gave it everything we had.

    We nursed Pete at home at first, but he had a fall and was taken to hospital, where they found he had two broken ribs, so he didn’t come home. We were blessed though because staff from the hospice came and took him with them. He was a different person while he was in there. Cheeky, contented and had 100% faith in all of the staff. They were wonderful with him; if I couldn’t look after him at home, I can think of no place nor people better that I could or would have left him with.

    My darling Pete passed a week later. We made a pact when we were first together all those years ago, that whoever went first wouldn’t completely go until it was time for the other. I’m proud and lucky to say, “My Pete did not let me down”. I’m as proud of him as I have ever been, and know that no matter what, one day we will unite as that one spark we have always been.


    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.


    Pilgrims Hospices cares for thousands of local people each year, free of charge, during the most challenging time in their lives. They offer care and support in people’s own homes, in the community and in their inpatient units as well as running a 24-hour advice line.

    20th December 2021

    Trees of Love raises £1 million for hospice care!

    This year, Pilgrims Hospices welcomed over 1,200 people to their Trees of Love remembrance services, held throughout December 2021, at the hospices in Ashford, Canterbury and Thanet, and at indoor venues in New Romney, River, Cheriton, Charing and Barham.


    Those remembering lost loved ones this Christmas dedicated doves to hang on the trees at each venue, or at home, to be illuminated throughout the festive season. All were then invited to join together to share their memories at the event or service of their choosing, where they enjoyed carol singing and warm mince pies.

    The usual live services held at the three hospice events on Saturday 4 December, were replaced by a filmed service, which is available to watch on the Pilgrims Hospices YouTube Channel.

    This year also marks an incredible achievement for east Kent’s largest remembrance services, as Ellie Cane, Individual Giving Officer, explains:

    “This very important remembrance service has been running for more than 20 years, and in that time we are pleased to say that we have just reached the milestone of raising over £1 million for the hospices! We’d like to thank all those who’ve supported this appeal over the years, and also to our incredible volunteers who help us make it happen each and every year.”

    Pilgrims partnered once again this year with Firmager Funeral Directors, All Souls Church and School, St Peter and St Paul Church, and the Westerleigh Group to put on these very special events, allowing more people in east Kent who have lost loved ones to attend.

    Ellie added: “The response to the appeal has been incredible, and we want to say a huge thank you to everyone that has dedicated a dove so far this year, and on previous years. Your support has meant we can continue to be still here, still caring even during difficult times.”

    Pilgrims will continue to take donations for dedicated doves across the festive season. Contact their Supporter Relations Team on 01227 782 062 or visit pilgrimshospices.org/treesoflove to donate and dedicate a dove.


    Each year Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,500 people in east Kent who are coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured. The charity support patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress.

    29th April 2021

    Pete’s family raise thousands to support future hospice care

    Hannah Austin (28) from Ebbsfleet experienced Pilgrims Hospices first-hand when her dad, Pete Austin (57), was cared for by the charity. The family asked loved ones to donate to Pilgrims in lieu of funeral flowers, hoping to raise £200 in Pete’s memory; they surpassed this target, raising a phenomenal £2,020 for the charity that provides vital end-of-life care for people across east Kent.


    Hannah with her dad Pete

    Pete, a retired escalator engineer from Birchington, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2019. Hannah said: “He enjoyed a healthy vegan diet, keeping fit, socialising down the pub with family and friends and going on holidays with my mum Viv. They were happily married for 35 years. He was a kind family man who loved life.”

    She added: “Dad was very brave and went through all the treatment he could, including three months of intense chemotherapy. Unfortunately, even though he fought so hard and did incredibly well, it did not work for him, and the decision was made to stop all treatment.”

    At this point, Pilgrims stepped in to support Pete and his family. The charity organised doctors and nurses to visit every day and keep him comfortable, enabling him to stay at home and be cared for by loved ones. Hannah said: “They supported my dad and the whole family; they would regularly phone my mum to check she was doing okay. Pilgrims were always just a phone call away if we had any questions or concerns.”

    “I found out I was pregnant the week my dad passed away and luckily I managed to tell him, which was the last time I saw him awake. Even though it’s sad as we know how much he wanted grandchildren, having my little girl has helped our whole family get through it. My brother’s wife was also pregnant at the time, so now my mum has her hands full with two grandchildren, which she loves!”

    To me, Pilgrims means a safe place for support when you need it the most. As we received such brilliant support, and because we know Pilgrims relies so much on donations, we wanted to give back so they can continue their good work supporting other families in the future.

    Hannah

    Pete passed away peacefully on 31 May 2020. Due to COVID restrictions, only a small number of people could attend his funeral in person, so the family asked loved ones to donate to Pilgrims via a JustGiving page instead of sending flowers. Initially aiming to raise £200, their hopes were far exceeded.

    Hannah said: “We were astounded to raise over £2,000 for Pilgrims, which shows just how loved our dad was.”

    “To me, Pilgrims means a safe place for support when you need it the most. As we received such brilliant support, and because we know Pilgrims relies so much on donations, we wanted to give back so they can continue their good work supporting other families in the future.”


    Each year Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,400 people in east Kent who are coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured. The charity support patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress.

    24th April 2020

    Shirley’s story: Why I’m leaving a gift to Pilgrims in my will

    Shirley Johnston has experienced first-hand the vital support provided by Pilgrims Hospices to people across east Kent. Her mum and husband both received the charity’s compassionate care at the end of their lives; Shirley decided to give back by leaving a gift to Pilgrims in her will so that other families can continue to benefit from its services in the future.


    My first experience of Pilgrims was in 1985 when my mum was cared for at the Canterbury hospice. Many years later my husband, Gordon, was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and had to undergo major surgery leaving him with a prognosis of 18 months. Despite this, he defied all odds by surviving another eight years! When his cancer eventually came back, I knew it was going to be painful for him so it was important for me that he received support from Pilgrims Hospices, just like my mum had.

    It made such a difference, it was so important; Pilgrims became everything as it gave him a purpose and a reason to keep going.

    Shirley

    He attended the Pilgrims Therapy Centre in Ashford as an outpatient for over a year, getting support with his pain, breathlessness groups, and day therapy sessions. As his carer, I was offered neck and shoulder massages as part of a pamper day. It made such a difference, it was so important; Pilgrims became everything as it gave him a purpose and a reason to keep going. He used to say “I just live at half-mast these days” but would still head into the hospice to read the paper to a friend who had trouble with her sight. When he eventually came into Pilgrims in Ashford for his last few weeks it was so peaceful. As he would have wished he was surrounded by his family at the end.

    As we’d spent so long coming to Pilgrims it was like being in a family and I was quite bereft without it after he’d gone. I attended a bereavement group and saw three ladies there that I’d met through the Therapy Centre when Gordon was alive. All our husbands had been patients and had died within four months of each other – so it was a real comfort for us to be able to support each other through such a difficult time. We became great friends and even now we all come back to the hospice once a month to meet up for lunch.

    Leaving a gift in my will to the hospice is as important to me as it was to my husband. I could never have cared for either my husband or my mum in the way the hospice cared for them. I’m leaving a gift to the hospice to ensure that this incredible service continues to be here for future generations, for my children and grandchildren.

    Shirley

    After some time had passed I really wanted to fill the void of what I had lost, so I decided to volunteer as a gardener at the Ashford hospice. Every week, you will find me in the ‘wild’ garden pottering around with my friend, Sue, keeping the gardens a beautiful space for everyone to enjoy.

    Gordon and I always spoke about wanting our money to be left to the hospice. When making my new will after I had spoken to my family, I split my estate six ways between my five children and Pilgrims.

    Leaving a gift in my will to the hospice is as important to me as it was to my husband. I could never have cared for either my husband or my mum in the way the hospice cared for them. I’m leaving a gift to the hospice to ensure that this incredible service continues to be here for future generations, for my children and grandchildren.

    By leaving a gift in your will to Pilgrims Hospices, you’ll help to ensure that each person in east Kent with an incurable illness receives the right care where and when they need it.

    Download our booklet for more information or contact the team directly:

    Please note: This story was written before the COVID-19 outbreak. For current information about all hospice services at the present time, including visiting our hospices and volunteering, please click here.


    Each year Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,400 people in east Kent coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured. The charity supports patient’s to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress. To offer these services charity must raise £11 million each year from the generous local community.

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