"I got there about 4am and someone was actually sitting there with her, which was so lovely"
Terry: [Describing the photo above] Eileen had bought these blankets for her and her husband George and they closed up with poppers. When Colin and I went for a visit she showed them to us, put one on and did it up - she looked hilarious! We were in knots laughing which explains the pictures of her.
Having already stated in their Wills to leave money to charity, Colin and Teresa (Terry) Wood decided to change their legacy to include St Helena, after seeing the care and dignity Colin’s mum Eileen experienced at the hospice before she died 10 days before her 89th birthday. This is their story…
Colin: She went very quickly, didn’t suffer, didn’t have any pain. She lost the use of her legs and that’s when we were concerned because up until then she was so independent, she could get around still. She had the oxygen but she could still get around. That’s what she wanted. But once she’d lost the use of her legs it was a completely different ball game; getting her up, moving her, which she really didn’t want. It’s quite hard to think about it now, very upsetting. So the chance of the hospice came up and she went in, which was really good. They looked after her so well, we’re so impressed with it, really impressed with it. It’s a shame people don’t realise what they do, and only realise what they do once they need that.
Terry: It was heart-wrenching, but the hospice took such amazing care, even after she passed away. We came back in the room and the nurses were still talking to her. It was just so respectful. The staff couldn’t do enough for you. I’d be at a loss as to how to praise it more.
Colin: It was 100%. And it was all the time, not just when we turned up. We knew they’d been looking after her. They phoned us when they really thought it was the time coming up. About half past three in the morning we went down there [to the hospice]. I got there about 4 o’clock and someone was actually sitting there with her, which was so lovely – it’s choking me up – because they didn’t have to, but they did. I have so much respect for them. And, as Terry said, when she did die they still talked to her as if she was still there. It really blows your mind they are that caring. They mean it and they are so genuine. It isn’t a front for anything, that’s just what they did.
“They just gave us more money”
Terry: And even after she’d gone they helped us with the undertakers. You’re in a state of shock. We knew she was going to die but it still was an unpleasant thing. We went back the next day and they went through all the stuff we needed to do, told us where we had to go, even silly things like the address of where you had to go to register the death in Colchester. This is specialist care and they absolutely deserve any amount of money that people can get for them. When we were clearing her house out, we spent ages taking photos and putting stuff on ebay.
Colin: A lot of it was old stuff that wasn’t worth anything, but people were very generous once we told them this was my mum’s stuff and we’re giving the money to the hospice; they just gave us more money.
Terry: Yes, a man bought an old radiogram off ebay for £10 and because I’d put on there it was for the hospice, he gave us £20!
Colin: My mum’s pots were out in the garden, not really looked after, mum just used to chuck bulbs in them. She had lots of pots and flowers and a woman asked what we were going to do with the pots. Well nothing, you can’t sort of give them away, they’re just garden pots mum inherited when she moved in there. We said take them and she took six pots and gave £30 for the pots! It’s just so lovely that when you do explain to people what you are doing it for, it’s so good. It’s when you educate people [about the hospice] they give the money across without hesitation and that’s what’s so sad is that they don’t all know.
Terry: We raised £425 with the bits of furniture and stuff like that. Once the house is sold, Colin and the rest of his family are going to give a lump sum donation to the hospice. We wanted to cover the care but then we were astonished at how much it cost to look after her for five days! Even if this goes some way towards maybe creating a place for somebody else who’s in our position. This is specialised. The nurses were great. They’d come over and give you a hug and see if you wanted tea or something. It was really hard seeing her like that.
“She knew it was coming”
Colin: She kept her independence right up to the last couple of days, which was amazing really. It was so rapid, it really was, which wasn’t a bad thing because she knew she what she had and ‘let’s get this over with’. She didn’t wish herself away but she knew it was coming and it did come quick and, horrible to say it, but I’m pleased about that. I know she would have been pleased about that, I just knew her, I knew how my mum was and she would have dreaded hanging around.
Terry: My mum died from cancer about 15 years ago and didn’t have what Colin’s mum had, didn’t have that kind of care. I was horrified because when we found out about Eileen, I’d seen what my mum had gone through and I was so scared it was going to be the same for her. Fortunately, she didn’t have pain, which was marvellous. Her thing was the breathing which did get worse.
Colin: I think the thing is that the cancer just grew. When they discovered it, it was the size of a tennis ball and we were told it was going to gradually push across, push across, and she would stop eating because she wouldn’t be able to swallow. It never really got there. We did have a small thing where she said ‘I can’t eat anymore’, which was quite amusing. It was Christmas and she was saying ‘I’m having trouble swallowing’ and we thought oh no, this is the swallowing thing. So I cooked Christmas dinner and it just went! She didn’t have any problems swallowing then! Loads of it, and she had more potato! It was quite amazing.
Terry: One of her things was pie and mash, she was a fiend for the pie and mash…
Colin: An East Londoner. I used to take her to Walton. She said to me one morning when she thought she was having trouble swallowing, ‘you’d promised you’d take me for pie and mash and never got round to it’. But she found out it was thrush that she’d got and they gave her some stuff for the back of her throat, and it cleared it up so she could swallow again. So I had to get her to the pie and mash shop before she went into the hospice. She didn’t eat loads of it, but she did well. Good fun.
“And then she died...”
Colin: And that was it really. And then she died, which was sad. But we’d all accepted it by then and she’d well accepted it by then which was a good thing because she had genuinely accepted what was going to happen.
Terry: She dealt with it better than me. I was with her one of the days in the hospice and the doctor was explaining something to her and I was worse than she was. She was rubbing my hair telling me not to be upset. You think it should be the other way round, it should be me comforting her, but…
Colin: That was the way she was. Something came along, you dealt with it, you accept it, you get on. Whatever it was in life, she’d always done that, so this was nothing different. My dad died six years ago so she was on her own. Yeah, she’s happy now, she’s with the old man and sister.
Terry: Any time now we get the opportunity to promote the hospice we would.
Colin: You think about it and it’s emotionally straight there. If you’re putting your parents or a loved one in someone else’s care 24/7 it’s got to be 100%. You’ve got enough on your plate worrying about everything so at least you haven’t got to worry about that. We were so happy that we knew she was going to be OK [at the hospice].
Terry: What I liked was that when she went into the hospice she said she liked it there – and she wouldn’t lie to us.
Colin: She was comfortable, she was secure. She knew why she was in there, that’s the thing, and she was contented. I think we would have known [if she didn’t like it]; I’d have had a phone call saying get me home now! And that was lovely we didn’t have that concern. We could walk away and leave her and know she would be well looked-after and no problems.
Terry: If somebody has had a diagnosis and knows there are horrible things to come, to have somewhere like that... We’re getting nothing by singing the praises of the hospice – we’re not going to get her back, we’re not getting any money for this, we don’t have to do this. To make people think there’s this wonderful place there that can give you dignity. There was dignity in every single thing, it was so nice.
Colin: As the Wood family, we’ve always… not joked about death, but we all know it’s going to come, and we took it all quite lightly. My dad used to say ‘don’t go spending any money on a coffin; put me down the bottom of the garden and let me rot away and do the veg.’ We’d always laugh about it. She was OK and accepted it, knew what was coming and she didn’t go on about it. She was 88. She had a hard life but a good innings.
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