13th May 2024

    Remembering Tony: A lifetime of love, laughter, and sunflowers.

    An adoring father and grandfather, my husband Tony was such a wonderful man. We met just a few days after my 18th birthday and had the typical meeting outside of the school gates. From daydreaming and scribbling ‘Tony 4 Me’ and ‘I heart Tony’ all over my school books, we would then go on to spend a very happy 50 years together. Although I best believe that our wedding had to be arranged around the fishing season with Tony being such a mad fisherman.

    Tony’s illness was such an overwhelming and difficult time, but he fought it with such positivity, humour and determination. In the beginning, he did not want to entertain the idea of a hospice, but gradually he accepted the support that the hospice could give us both on his journey. Following an initial tour, his fears were allayed and he was comfortable attending either on his own or together. He took part in a couple of trials and it became the norm for us to discuss what would otherwise be a difficult topic. He fought to the very end though and because of the fantastic support, was able to stay at home until the last two days of his life. The nurses helped tremendously in making such a sad situation feel so normal and peaceful. The experience of his death was a beautiful one, where the love in his eyes shone through in his last minutes. It’s something I’ll never forget.

    Roman – Laura’s grandson

    Our obsession with sunflowers had always been a family joke. We both loved them, and Tony as a keen gardener, grew them in our garden and his allotment. We’d compete to see who could grow them the highest, and sometimes they were bigger than him! I have a total obsession with sunflowers, have ornaments, and even wore sunflower perfume. On any special occasion, we loved to give them out to our family and friends, as well as receive them. At his funeral, I laid a beautiful arrangement of sunflowers on his coffin.

    When I found out about the Sunflower Days, I couldn’t think of anything more fitting. I attended with my grandson, Roman, who had lived with us since he was three and adored his Gramps, and the day brought so much happiness. A friend met us and took Roman to go and see his Gramps’ dedicated sunflower. It was a really emotional moment when he found Gramps’ special flower, we both cried, but they were happy tears. The gardens looked beautiful and it was a day of joy and happy memories.

    However much I miss him, and always will, Tony’s passing was something I was so frightened of. But somehow, in the hospice, everything was so peaceful, and the staff were so kind and understanding. I will always be grateful. I hope to take part in Sunflower Memories, and attend the Sunflower Days for many years to come.

    Join us this July to dedicate a sunflower in a loved one’s memory, and celebrate their life in the hospice gardens at our Sunflower Days.

    This year, our Sunflower Days will take place on Saturday, July 20, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in our hospice gardens. We invite you to share your memories, collect your sunflower marker, and celebrate the life of your loved one, all while supporting the outstanding care Pilgrims delivers to local families, inside and outside the hospice walls.

    More information on how to dedicate a sunflower can be found here.

    Pilgrims Hospices is a registered charity providing specialist palliative care to individuals with life-limiting illnesses across East Kent. With a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, Pilgrims Hospices is committed to delivering compassionate care and support to patients and their families, ensuring dignity, comfort, and quality of life.

    9th April 2024

    Finding joy in memories – Sarah reflects on celebrating her Dad’s life at Sunflower Memories

    Sarah shares why celebrating the life of her Dad, Anthony, at Sunflower Memories, is so important to her and her family.

    My Dad was a total one-off. He had the most amazing sense of humour, loved to be the centre of attention, and was ridiculous, in the best way! With my brother and two sisters, we were all so close, but he and I in particular were such kindred spirits.

    He loved jazz and rock and roll music, and when the time came, he decided on the music for his own funeral. In true Dad style, he chose Jerry Lee Lewis’s Great Balls of Fire to be played on the day! As I was putting his eulogy together and talking to all of the people in his life, there was one commonality between all of their memories: laughter.

    I find such comfort in coming back to the hospice to remember him, and these events are such a wonderful opportunity and excuse to do so.


    Dad had his blood cancer diagnosis in 2014, and beat the odds of his prognosis. It wasn’t until he suffered a stroke in March of 2022 that he started to deteriorate. The cruellest part was that the stroke took his voice, and for a man with such a vivacious character, it was so upsetting.

    Sarah’s dad Anthony

    While Dad only spent 36 hours in the hospice, Pilgrims Wellbeing services were offered to him beforehand, although he was hesitant to utilise them. In the end, he knew that the Canterbury hospice was the place he wanted to be. Ultimately, it was his life, his death, and his choice, right to the very end.

    As soon as we arrived at the hospice, we were greeted by a doctor and nurses, who were amazing. They immediately sprang into action and got his pain and anxieties under control. They created such an honest, open, and safe environment in which Dad and all of the family were so supported. We were so scared and unsure of what to expect, but the Pilgrims nurses stayed by our side throughout, providing such a steady and reassuring presence.

    Two years later, and I still find it hard to believe that he isn’t here with us. Along with my siblings, I remember my dad at both Trees of Love and Sunflower Memories. I find such comfort in coming back to the hospice to remember him, and these events are such a wonderful opportunity and excuse to do so. I want to keep celebrating him and see his name written somewhere. Knowing Dad, he would want to be flashed everywhere!

    We invite you to share your memories at Sunflower Memories 2024. Join us this July; click here to dedicate a sunflower in a loved one’s memory, and celebrate their life in the hospice gardens at our Sunflower Days.

    Saturday, 20 July, 1pm–4pm in Pilgrims Hospices gardens in Canterbury, Thanet, and Ashford.

    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 supports patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress.

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