Josephine Gunnee loved chatting to people. She never said no to invitations out with her friends and maked sure she grasped every opportunity.

Josephine also spoke openly about her wishes, choices and feelings about her future after she was diagnosed with a rare cancer.

A year after Josephine died, her daughters Linda and Alison discovered their mum had shared an inspiring and uplifting account of her early experiences with St Helena Hospice. You can read their story too, where they share why conversations about end of life.

As part of our Hope Together Appeal and ahead of Dying Matters week, this is Josephine's story.

I never worry about the fact that I’ve got cancer. I don’t worry about it at all, you may think that’s funny.

Should I be sad? Perhaps if I was hurting it would be different. I find people are feeling sorry for me and I don’t want them to, I want them to be happy. Let’s just get on with it. I’m trying to make it as happy as possible. I’m always looking forward to what is to come tomorrow.

The doctor told me how long I might have and I thought right, I don’t want to die at home, I don’t want to die in a nursing home; I want to die at the hospice. So I just rung them up and more or less I said, can I die at your place?

I explained to SinglePoint what I wanted to do, that I wanted to die at the hospice, and was that possible? Last week I had a tour of the hospice and I thought it was lovely. My two daughters came with me. They lost their dad two years ago, he died of cancer but also had dementia, and I nursed him as long as I could to the last five months before he went into a care home. SinglePoint nurses came out to him when he was at our home. They were both dad’s girls and they’re still trying to cope with that.

We sat in the garden for a while and my daughter noticed there were some flowers coming out that her dad loved, so she said ‘isn’t that amazing?’ and she relaxed.

I’ve shown them power of attorney and how to access things. It’s just peace of mind. When my husband was alive - we were married in 1953, we had a very happy marriage, very happy family - I didn’t have to do anything, none of the finances. He was a banker so I never did anything. I’m so proud of how I’ve coped since. I’d never written a cheque or been to the bank and I’m proud of myself for what I’ve achieved since he died, and I want the girls to be the same.

Gradually I’ve introduced a few [paperwork] things to them and I’ve got to the stage where I have written a list of phone numbers of all my friends. They know my friends I’ve had since I was 18 years old but they don’t know all the friends I’ve met through bereavement. I’ve met some lovely people and I made a list of all the phone numbers I want them to contact in the future.

And I now say to them, this is where that is, that is there, this is here, this is who you contact first. And it’s got to the joking stage now which I think is good because I don’t think death should be sad really. I really don’t. You’ve got to live every day. And every night I say my prayers and I say thank you for another lovely day, let there be tomorrow. There’s no yesterday, that’s gone, it’s always tomorrow. I get up, get ready, get washed, get dressed, put my make up on and I’m up for the day.

I have lots of friends, I go out nearly every day and then I see the family at weekends. I think if you keep yourself motivated… I mean I can’t stand in a queue in a supermarket without talking to someone. I love talking. And I think perhaps some people have not spoken to anyone all day apart from me. I just like people. I’m a people person. So when I first rang SinglePoint and said how do I go about getting involved with the hospice, they said about the day therapies group. I went along and I thought it was lovely. I was surprised because I thought everyone would have cancer. I thought it was a hospice for cancer. But someone has motor neurone disease, someone has lung problems and breathing problems, and I was most surprised about it. Everyone is so nice and as soon as I walked in the front door, the lovely girl at the desk said hello and the atmosphere is lovely. There are so many different people and all their stories are different and I thoroughly enjoy it. I think if this is the start of my hospice journey and it’s this lovely, then it can only get better, can’t it?

I do go out a lot because I made my mind up I wasn’t going to stay at home and be miserable, because then I make everybody else miserable and I don’t want that. So I go out nearly every day and if someone rings up… like the other day I was doing the kitchen, got the chairs in the hall and I’m going to start the kitchen, knock on my door and the lady upstairs said ‘I’m going out to lunch, do you fancy coming, I’m about to go now’. I said yes! Put the chairs back quickly and I’m off! If anybody asks me out I go, I never refuse an invitation because I may not be able to have that invitation tomorrow, so I just go.

I just love it here. Why I wanted to die in the hospice - and I hope they will have a bed for me when the time comes, that is the only thing – my daughters have to clear out and get rid of where I live and things like that. And I know it will be absolutely awful for me to have died there and them for them to have to come and sort out everything. I don’t want that to happen, I wouldn’t wish that on them at all. So I thought if they can say goodbye to me in a lovely environment, that is better all round.

I’m 84, nearly 85, and I’d give up my life now for somebody over there [at the hospice] that’s younger, without a doubt, because I’ve had a good life. That’s not to say I don’t want to carry on having a good life but you know life ends, so let it end happily.

Josephine died peacefully at the hospice in January 2020, surrounded by her loved ones. Her daughters Linda and Alison share their story too.

Contact Information
Fundraising

To contact the St Helena Fundraising team, please telephone 01206 931 468 or email fundraising@sthelena.org.uk , Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm.

Retail

To contact the St Helena Retail team, for enquiries about our shops, donation centre and house clearance service please telephone 01206 890 165.

SinglePoint

24 hour advice: SinglePoint 01206 890 360

SinglePoint is a 24/7 advice and support helpline which helps to coordinate an individual’s care with the hospice. SinglePoint also works alongside other healthcare services such as GPs, Community Nurses or Specialists.

The Hospice

To contact a patient at The Hospice please find the address and telephone number below. Phone calls can be made to patients at any time of the day or week. You can contact Inpatient Services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Hospice, Myland Hall, Barncroft Close, Highwoods, Colchester, C04 9JU

Telephone: 01206 845 566

Hospice in the Home

You can contact The Hospice in the Home Team Monday to Friday, between 9.00am and 5.00pm on:

Colchester/Halstead team
Telephone: 01206 845 566

Tendring community team
Telephone: 01255 221 222

Day Therapies

You can contact the Joan Tomkins Centre (Colchester) Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on:

Telephone: 01206 848 163

Fax: 01206 752 245

You can contact the St Helena Tendring Centre (Clacton) Monday to Friday, between 9.00am and 5.00pm on 01255 221 222

Tendring Centre Postcode for Sat Navs: CO15 1EU

Human Resources

The HR Team can be contacted Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on 01206 931 466

Finance Team

To contact the St Helena Finance Team please telephone 01206 931 450 Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm

Volunteer Services Team

The Volunteer Services team can be contacted Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on 01206 931 466

Media Enquiries

For all media enquiries between 9.00am and 5.00pm, Monday to Friday, please phone the Marketing and Communications team directly on 01206 931 464

Patient Referrals

If you, or a member of your family has a life-limiting illness and would like to discuss whether St Helena care services can help, you can contact the SinglePoint telephone service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 01206 890 360

Bereavement Support

To contact the St Helena Bereavement Support team please telephone the bereavement helpline: 01206 984 274, Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm

Learning and Development Centre

The Learning and Development Centre is open Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm and can be contacted on 01206 851 560

Service User Group

For more information on the St Helena Service User Group please contact Chair, Ken Aldred on 01206 751 397

Facilities Hire Enquiries

01206 851560

Lottery

To contact the Lottery team please call 0800 285 1390 or visit the website here, Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.

If you would like to write to or visit the Lottery team, the address is: Your Hospice Lottery Office Unit 6 The Atrium, Phoenix Square, Wyncolls Road, Colchester CO4 9AS.

Comment, compliment or complaint

Feedback, comments and complaints about St Helena care and support services may be made verbally or in writing to: Director of Care, St Helena, Myland Hall, Barncroft Close, Highwoods, Colchester, CO4 9JU. To speak to a member of our team, call 01206 845 566