THIS Christmas, most families gathered together for a delicious feast in a house full of laughter, fun and celebration.
But it wasn’t a joyous occasion for everyone, particularly for those who are coming to the end of a battle with terminal illness, and for their relatives.
There is no right time for such heartache but somehow it seems to be all the more poignant during the festive season.
But for the staff at Backford’s Hospice of the Good Shepherd, striking the right balance between sensitivity and Christmas cheer is one of their most important tasks.
Staff like clinical services manager Audrey Jones try to ensure as many people as possible are able to spend the season at home but others will need to come in to receive specialist care.
“We try to make the place as cheery as possible, by putting all the decorations up so the ward looks bright and cheerful,” said Audrey.
“We have open visiting all year round, but of course there are lots of visitors and friends of patients coming to see them.
“Father Christmas comes in the early hours of Christmas morning and has a mince pie and a glass of sherry with the night staff, before leaving a present for each patient from him and the hospice.
“And we usually have a radio playing carols for the visitors that are coming and going.”
On Christmas Day itself the nurses work two shorter shifts starting at 7.30am so everyone gets the chance to spend time with their own families, and all the hours are distributed fairly between staff.
Although patients can enjoy a cooked breakfast any day of the year, bacon and eggs are traditional fare when it comes to Christmas breakfast, and visitors are welcome to join in.
The catering staff then start work on preparing a full Christmas dinner and again can be joined by family members if they wish.
Even a Christmas tipple isn’t out of the question.
“As always for the patients we offer aperitifs prior to dinner as appetite stimulants,” said Audrey.
“For the rest of the day the kitchen put on a wonderful buffet and we get a lot of biscuits and chocolates and other treats donated that we share between patients and families.”
“If one thing is certain at the hospice, nobody starves over Christmas.”
She added: “We have some sad times over Christmas, but we also have lots of lovely memories.
“It is a privilege to be able to share those special times with the patients and their families.”