I’d like to tell you about my dad. When you hear the heart-breaking word “terminal” it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, when you hear them in the descriptive context for your dad, you just want the world to stop turning and swallow you up. Your life changes forever from that moment in time. My dad Ian Ball, my hero, was diagnosed with Terminal Bowel Cancer Sat 14th January 2017. He passed away 2 short weeks later on Sat 28th January 2017. Two heart-breaking weeks that will live with me forever.
On the Wednesday before Dad passed away, we received the news he could go into St Mary’s Hospice for Palliative care. I sat back and watched him smile, a broad hearty smile, the second to last time I would see his heart-warming smile. I was struggling with any smiles, and to understand my dad’s reaction, but as dads often are he was already more than aware of what to expect at St Mary’s.
We arrived at St Mary’s together, and I watched his broad smile appear. He spoke so clearly of how “Beautiful” he found the room and how “Outstanding” he thought the view was. Our conversation stopped so we could just sit and listen to the trickling water feature outside his window and enjoy the scenery. Dad cleared his throat and said “How lucky am I to have place in here, isn’t it just amazing”. These were hard words for me to digest when I felt far from lucky but he was beyond content. He had changed: all of his fear had completely disappeared. He didn’t seem scared anymore, amazingly he had relaxed, and I could see it in his eyes. That was the last time I would see my hero smile.
The next three days were the hardest in my life, but those three days made a heartfelt connection with St Mary’s Hospice for me. I fell in love, in love with the place, the people and everything it is about. We were in the darkest of times as a family, but these fabulous people would constantly go above and beyond to ensure we knew they are there for us all, no matter what. You realise instantly you are not alone, a loving smile, a reassuring hand on your shoulder, a full loving and caring cuddle, giving constant attention and reassurance but always at the right time, a true gift to receive.
Naturally people associate angels with heaven, it’s not true, St Mary’s Hospice is full of them, walking, breathing, caring angels constantly ensuring patients and families are cared for. There is no other word to best describe them. Until you experience St Mary’s you can never appreciate how perfect the place and people are. To me they will always be “PERFECT ANGELS”. I take so much comfort knowing my dad was in St Mary’s Hospice where he was relaxed, fearless and brave. He wanted to be there, that was his chosen place, and I think that says a lot.
All the care that Dad received was free, but only 18% of the funding the hospice receives is from the NHS. The rest of the £3.2M it costs to run has to be raised. I can’t thank St Mary’s enough and I will be a lifelong supporter.