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Dick, Mary and John

It has been 25 years since my first experience with St. Michael’s Hospice; my lovely Dad passed away peacefully on 4th January 1994 in the amazing care of the wonderful staff and volunteers at the Hospice. A quarter of a century later, I know now what I knew then, he was in the best possible place, receiving the very best care and support. I would love to share my family's Hospice journey with you all.

My parents, Dick and Kathleen, moved from Ireland to England during the war and met at a dance (over the next 40 years my dad’s dancing soon became very popular with the ladies at the Irish Club, they were often queuing to dance with him!). After marrying in Beaconsfield and having my eldest brother Michael, they moved back to Ireland and had five more children, John, Mary, Patrick, Jim and myself. Years later in 1961, they made the tough decision to move us all back to England and we soon arrived in Basingstoke. The next year my youngest brother Martin was born. Being part of a large family was always so much fun; the house was full of mischief, happiness, laughter and so much love. We were and still are a very strong and close-knit family, with my siblings and I going on to expand the Hennessy family with 16 children between us and 18 grandchildren (with one more on the way) and living as far away as Australia and Dubai. Being a close family meant when my Dad passed away, we all rallied together to support each other through our grief, but only 13 months later we were back at St. Michael’s Hospice with my darling sister. Mary had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and despite her most heroic determination she passed away on 4th February 1995, only 42 years old. Knowing the Hospice the way we did, we knew what level of care and support to expect when Mary was admitted. The staff, remembering us from only the year previous, without hesitation, made us feel at ease and cared for our dearest Mary with the upmost professional and loving care to the very end.

With two members of our family passing away in such a short period of time, my family and I were all confused as to why it had happened to us and were all devastated. Despite our pain and grief, the one place we were truly thankful for was the support and care of everyone at St. Michael’s Hospice. To this day I can’t forget the love and warmth we all received as a family when walking through those doors for the first time, all knowing we were in exactly the right place. I truly feel that I can never repay them for the care they gave to our family members at the end of their lives. As a family we continued to do what we could for the Hospice, spreading the word about the incredible services they provided, taking part in Hospice events, donating regularly and supporting the Hospice at big birthday celebrations by asking for donations in lieu of gifts. My brother John was always very keen to make sure all his loose change was put to one side, to ensure it went to the Hospice. As the years have gone by the memories we all have of the Hospice have not faded and neither has the passion we have for supporting the work they do in supporting the local community. In 2010 we saw ourselves back at St. Michael’s Hospice as my brother, John, was suffering from cancer and once again we were all looked after as amazingly as we were the 16 and 15 years beforehand. John passed away surrounded by us all on fi rework's night, Friday 5th November
2010. He could not have passed away on a more beautiful evening as the sky lit up, bursting with colour, joy and life; he loved fireworks and bonfires, so it was very apt. Celebrating life is so important at St. Michael’s as they really did do everything to make my dad, sister and brother as comfortable as possible for the time they had left. The staff and volunteers are all inspirational and helped us all so much as a family to deal with the loss of not one, but three of our closest family members. I will forever be thankful and so very grateful to St. Michael’s Hospice for opening their doors, welcoming us all so warmly into their space and delivering truly exceptional care, I don’t know what we would have done without St. Michael’s. This year, to mark the 25th anniversary of Dad’s passing, we will donate via the memory tree. It will mean so much to us to be able to see his leaf beautifully displayed on the wall.

Anne Mitchell

To see this article as it appeared in our Spring 2019 InFormation magazine, click here.

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