Lucy, who lives in Chester, kindly agreed to open her heart as the hospice launches its Silver to Gold Appeal to fund a £2.2m new build that will double the size of the existing facility. And Lucy is doing her bit by compering a musical fund-raising night at Chester Cathedral.
“We never want to think about a hospice,” said Lucy, a former Chronicle reporter and the long-serving news anchor for Granada Reports. “We cling to the hope we will never die. But we all know one of the very few guarantees in life is it has to end. And a life well lived should have the best closing chapter possible.”
Lucy was in her 20s when she lost both her parents, who lived in Rowton. She recalled how it was her beloved mum Patricia who went first, aged just 56, after being taken to hospital as an emergency admission following a painful battle with bone cancer back when there was no hospice.
“I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. There was the blue flashing light outside the house and mum’s brave smile when she heard our dog bark for the last time. It was one of the saddest experiences any family can endure.
"Mum died 48 hours later – it was New Year’s Eve - one of the busiest nights of the year a night that in any hospital is pretty chaotic. They did their best.“
Hundreds of mourners attended Patricia’s funeral. Although much of it was an emotional ‘blur’, Lucy remembers there was a collection to help fund the new hospice that was going to serve Chester.
Two years later Lucy father’s Graham, who had worked for ICI in Runcorn, was sadly diagnosed with terminal cancer and she returned home from a job with BBC TV in London.
“Luckily I managed to talk my way into a job at Granada TV – and even when dad was in hospital he used to walk to the TV room (attached to a drip) to watch Granada Reports. Other patients told me later he used to say proudly: ‘That’s my daughter, you know’.”
Lucy says the family looked after dad at home for as long as possible.
“I must have tried cooking every meal he’d ever liked, we did endless crosswords together, we drank copious amounts of whisky (which I hate) and gin (which I don’t), we talked about my mum, about holidays, about his childhood, about books we loved and about so many random and wonderful things.
"When you know how precious every day is you don’t waste any of them. The bond between father and daughter is a powerful one – I could never imagine my life without him.”
The time came, back in 1989, when her 66-year-old father became so poorly it was suggested the family speak to the hospice that was now up and running and ‘with a bit of coaxing’ her dad finally agreed to see someone. The female support worker reassured him it wasn’t ‘a prison camp’ and he would be welcome to offer his favourite G & T tipple to visitors.
“Their first priority – as it still is – is sorting out someone’s pain. They are the experts in that,” said Lucy, who explained that the hospice builds up a rapport with the individual through home visits.
“When he was admitted for the last three days of his life it was as if he was staying in a smart hotel. The bed was comfortable, his room was lovely, the staff were cheerful and helpful, his drinks cupboard was in place for visitors (gin and tonic was compulsory), and he suddenly seemed more relaxed.
“When he died it was simply as if he had fallen asleep somewhere where he felt comfortable and at home. He’d found peace. Don’t get me wrong the hospice can’t solve it all. They couldn’t take away my pain. They can’t solve the heartbreak of losing someone you love.
“The worst moment for me was collecting dad’s personal belongings from the hospice the next day. It was the saddest, loneliest thing I have ever done. I remember picking up his watch. I had never seen him without it. Even thinking about that now brings tears to my eyes.
“But even then when dad was gone – I remember the kindness from the people at the hospice. I felt truly cared for and supported.”
Lucy says the hospice can only do what it does because of ‘all the crazy people who do crazy things’ to raise money like 81-year-old Emily Hornby from Blacon who did a skydive, Julia Frost a volunteer who had her head shaved to help raise £11,000 and Dave Skingsley, who raised £2,000 by overcoming his fear of spiders and having a tarantula put on his head.
“We all need to do our bit. That’s why on May 7th I am hosting a special fund-raising night at Chester Cathedral and I would urge as many people as possible to support it. It’s the 60th anniversary of the Kelsborrow Choir – the music will be stunning and it will be a great night. If you can’t be there do something else to raise money for them instead.
“We need support from local businesses and individuals. But I would really like to see some families there too. Let’s face it, it’s in a very good cause. You never know when it will be your family’s turn. It’s in your long term interests to support it.”
Tickets for the event, which also features the Roberts Bakery Band, are priced £15 and available from the cathedral box office on 01244 500959.