Julie and Peter's Story | The Hospice of St. Francis

Julie and Peter's Story

"The Hospice lifted us up at the most difficult time of our lives. 

"The Hospice lifted us up at the most difficult time of our lives.  I know they’ll do the same for you and your family if you ever need them."

I still remember Julie as she was thirty-six years ago, when we first worked together. One day we heard a fire alarm and went outside. Julie felt cold so I gave her my jacket. “But you’ll get cold now,” Julie said.  

“I’d rather I get cold than you.” I replied.

Julie joked that was the first nice thing she heard me say or do. She had a biting sense of humour beneath her quiet office persona.  

A few years on both our lives changed and we found each other. I proposed to her three years later and we married in St Lucia.

Some colleagues thought it was strange that we were together all day and evening, but for Julie and me that was fine. When our son Nathan was small, Julie devoted herself to caring for others. She’d drive people to hospital and even join them at their appointments. She just loved helping everyone.

In early 2019, Julie found a lump in her breast.  One month later, they discovered the cancer had spread to her lung. I gave up work so I could spend more time with her.

The pandemic happened next. Julie was classed as vulnerable, so we had to stay in the house for a year and a half.  We had wanted to fit in so many things – we’d booked holidays and weekends away – all of which got cancelled. So Julie and I developed a routine, doing jigsaw puzzles and crosswords together, sometimes late into the night.

I think we knew at Christmas that there wasn’t going to be another Christmas. We didn’t say it to each other, and we didn’t go mad buying expensive things. We just wanted a nice, quiet Christmas. Turkey and the traditional trimmings.  Watching Strictly with Julie’s mother. I did all the cooking and we had one final peaceful Christmas together.

In February 2023, Julie was in agony and doctors confirmed the cancer had spread to her spine. She spent 14 stressful days in hospital, experiencing confusion and miscommunications. Julie was worried I was doing too much, and I was worried I’d miss out on something. We were both very down. Then we heard there was a bed at the Hospice of St Francis.

It was a beautiful sunny day when we arrived at the Hospice. The care Julie received improved everything for her. She loved the nurses. They had time to talk with her. You could see her come back to life. I could be with her every day; we had lunch in the conservatory together, did jigsaw puzzles in the lounge. I had the time to spend with my wife, knowing she was comfortable and cared for.

Julie always loved Whipsnade Zoo, and one day Ray (Head of Spiritual Care) drove the three of us to the zoo. It really cheered Julie up. After a month, they said Julie could go home and organised everything we needed.

At home, Julie had her favourite fish and chips and visited the zoo again. But after three weeks, she started to deteriorate. We brought her back to the Hospice, and they put up a bed for me next to her. I held her hand and we watched Bullseye together. I was there with Julie at the end and watched her take her last breaths.

Julie and I used to drive to the zoo, to stop for a coffee at the viewpoint. There’s a café that overlooks the valley, and we spread her ashes at the back of the café. It’s where she said she wanted to go. So now I go there to have a coffee and walk down to have a chat. I tell her what’s happening. I go about twice a week.

In Julie’s final days, the Hospice was such a great help to me – they made her passing gentle. I’ve had calls from the bereavement team, and sometimes come back just to walk the grounds.

The Hospice lifted us up at the most difficult time of our lives. They gave Julie and me more time to enjoy together. I know they’ll do the same for you and your family if you ever need them.