Stewart Molyneux’s beloved mum passed away in Rowcroft’s sunny garden in August 2016. It was the loving care that she received at Rowcroft that inspired Stewart to come and join the hospice -where he now works as Trusts and Grants Fundraising Manager. In this poignant blog, written with a moving openness that comes straight from his heart, Stewart reflects on his mum’s time at the hospice, at his difficult journey through overwhelming loss, and how – when he was swallowed up by the darkness of grief – he managed to find a way through.
Before writing this blog about my journey through grief, I looked back through some pieces I wrote during my mother’s illness and her subsequent passing. Fighting back the tears, it made me realise how relevant those thoughts and feelings are even now, four years after she passed.
Mum initially had a sense of fear about coming into the hospice because she thought she wouldn’t come out again. She was wholly against the idea, mainly as she was fearful that she would never come out alive. She thought hospices were just for old people, a place where they go to die in dark, miserable rooms surrounded by sad, heartless staff. I wasn’t aware of Rowcroft at the time and so I didn’t know what to expect.
Yet within 24 hours of being here, she had a sense of calm and peace that we as a family hadn’t seen in her whole three years of being ill. Every single one of my family members agrees that this is down to the magic of Rowcroft Hospice.
Rowcroft is a wonderful place. A stunning large house, lush green grounds, meadows of wildflowers and best of all, the place is packed with a team of doctors, nurses, groundskeepers and others who genuinely care about every single person whose health dictates that their services are required.
Mum was a solar-powered woman and, thanks to these wonderful people, she got to enjoy that rarest of things: a warm, sunny English summer. Each day, the nurses would wheel her bed, accompanying wires and medications out to the perfectly manicured gardens – where she would ultimately come to rest. This was just one of the amazing examples of how Rowcroft puts the needs and choices of the patient first, above all else. Her illness took away who she was to us as a family. She struggled to breath or show emotion – bar her infamous stares, which she dished out willingly to anyone unfortunate enough to irk her! For her to choose to go outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun on her skin in her final days gave her a mastery over her illness she hadn’t had in a very long time. It also gave us as a family the most beautiful and precious memories of her; something which we will be forever grateful for.
Genuinely, I wish I could have shaken the hand and kissed the cheek of every person who works at the hospice. Each one of them makes the arduous task of watching a loved one slowly slip away from you a teeny-tiny bit more comfortable. No mean feat considering the incomparable pain which comes with that terrible experience. However, for my family, both immediate and extended, it was truly of comfort to know that our dear mother, our rock, our provider, was receiving the expert care and attention she needed.
My biggest source of pain was whether Mum was scared at the prospect of dying. I just didn’t want her to have any fear, especially as she couldn’t communicate what she was feeling. The fact that she couldn’t tell us that she was going to be at peace or whether she was frightened just broke me. When she passed, on 24 August 2016, I didn’t know if I would be able to get over this pain. I was offered bereavement support, but I couldn’t see what this would accomplish. However, my journey through grief led me to eventually take up this offer and speaking to someone did help. It helped more than I could ever imagine it would. I was also introduced to the Sanctuary – a nourishing, tranquil and inclusive space at the hospice for quiet reflection and rest. It’s where the Memory Tree is located and where her name adorns a leaf right in the centre. This space has been a huge source of comfort to me, giving me the opportunity to be with Mum and remember her in a way that brings much comfort. Whenever I need to step away from the madness of daily life, or I just want some space to remember her, to speak to her and seek her advice, I can go there to be in peace, to reflect, to focus my thoughts on her and remember the beacon of strength that she was.
It has taken a long time – four years since she passed – for me to recognise the fundamental importance of communication and acknowledging that you simply don’t have to go through this journey alone.
I hope this is a reflection that will help you too.
If you feel fear, tell someone you are scared.
If you are not OK, ask for help.
Help will always be there, especially from somewhere like Rowcroft Hospice.