John tells us about life with his wife Christine MBE who he was married to for 63 years before she died at the hospice in May 2020.
“The hospice is brilliant. It’s a place that has to be supported.”
Despite living all over the world in their early marriage Christine was a local girl at heart and would eventually be awarded a MBE for her services to the people of Sussex. The couple met in the hamlet of Bishopstone nestled in the South Downs; John was home on leave from the military and Christine immediately caught his eye. They married 2 years later in 1957 and very quickly headed off to Jamaica. There followed a number of postings around the world and the UK before in 1969 they returned to Lewes, moving to their current home in 1978.
Over the years they bought a number of items of furniture from the St Peter & St James Hospice furniture charity shop in Lewes; John still has a coffee table and a wardrobe that they brought from the shop in the front bedroom. It was this shop which made them aware of the hospice and provided the connection when the time came.
Christine worked for the Sussex Rural Community Council for 30 years which was a charity advising the council. Christine also co-founded the Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA). For her many years of service and dedication to the people of Sussex, Christine was awarded a MBE in 2004.
Following her ‘retirement’ from the Council she continued to work as secretary at Westmeston council for 15 years. At 78 years old, Christine properly retired and they both left for a long holiday in France in May 2019. Sadly however, her GP called her and said she needed to come back urgently for further investigations. Once back in the UK, she was diagnosed with cancer, and given a few months to live.
She was offered a bed on a ward but Christine didn’t want the routine and isolation of a hospital. After remembering about the hospice from their furniture shopping trips, they discussed Christine’s options with the hospice community nurse team. They visited the hospice in North Chailey and were pleasantly surprised by the warm and peaceful environment.
“We were very impressed with how the hospice is run, we liked all the people, and found it very efficient. It provides very different care than a hospital. The district and hospice nurses were incredibly supportive.”
The community support that the hospice gave, enabled John to care for Christine at home for the next 10 months and, even though she found it very difficult to stay put in one place, both enjoyed reading to pass the time. They were assisted by our community nurses, in particular Julie, who helped Christine remain at home for as long as possible.
In the last 2 months of Christine’s life her condition worsened and finally on May 12th 2020 they called the hospice who sent out a nurse to assess. After discussing Christine’s condition with her and the hospice team it was agreed to admit her to the hospice and an ambulance was called to transport her.
John was able to stay with her at the hospice, whilst adhering to all Covid restrictions in place at the time. A bed was set up in Christine’s room, although he chose to sit beside her bed in a recliner chair so that he could be ready to call a nurse if necessary. The nurses were able to tell him that although Christine was unable to speak and see she could hear and knew he was there. He had promised to be with Christine all the way and he reminded her of this on the morning of May 18th.
“I mopped a small tear that had rolled down her cheek and was able to be there as Christine took her last breath. I am so grateful that the hospice gave me space to be with her despite the pandemic.”
John agreed to share his story as it is really important to him that more people know about the hospice and the care that it offers. He was so impressed with the service and care that the hospice provided that he has kindly chosen to donate £500 on the anniversary of Christine’s death.