“Along with thousands of other people, a letter dropped through my door in March to say I should shield myself for 12 weeks. I’m classed as being in the ‘extremely vulnerable’ group you see as I’m 85 and have pulmonary fibrosis. I’d been keeping a close eye on the news so by the time the post arrived I hadn’t left the house for two weeks – just to be on the safe side.
I live alone since my darling wife of 59 years, Dorothy, died just before Christmas in 2016. My beautiful Dorothy, who was the image of Elizabeth Taylor, blessed me with two daughters – Pauline and Julie – who went on to have four children of their own. Dorothy and I were so happy together and I have many precious memories. But like many families, we’ve been through some very difficult times together too.
In 1994, when our youngest daughter Julie was 35, she was struggling to conceive a second child. She went for tests and the specialist told her she had pre-cancerous cells in her cervix. Within three months the cells started to rapidly change and Julie was devastated to be told she needed a hysterectomy.
One year later, while Julie was still going through treatment, Dorothy was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is a type of blood cancer. Medication managed this well for a number of years for my wife, but no treatment could save our daughter Julie. The cancer returned and spread into Julie’s lymph system and then her lungs. On 13th July 1999, we got a call from the hospital to say ‘you need to get here quickly’ so I raced down the motorway and Dorothy and I got there just in time. We stood either side of Julie’s bed and both held her hand as she passed away. I felt numb and we were completely in shock that our youngest daughter had died – she was only 40 years old and her little boy Bruce was 10.
So, when a letter about the hospice’s Hope and Healing appeal dropped through my door last month, it really touched my heart and struck a chord with me. Inside the envelope was a letter written by Vicki who was sharing her family’s story. Vicki’s daughter died from cervical cancer at the young age of 25, when her little boy was only seven. In the letter, Vicki was asking people if they could make a donation so the hospice could set up more art therapy and counselling groups – just like the one that helped her grandson so much when his mother died.
Well, I had a good cry when I read that letter. It brought back so many memories and I felt such a connection because of what my family has been through. I thought of Julie and of our grandson, and of my own mother who died from tuberculosis when I was a young boy. I thought of my beautiful Dorothy and of how the hospice was so good to us when I was caring for her 24/7.
I believe it’s important to talk about your feelings and these groups will really help children who are feeling lost and lonely through one of the most difficult times in their life. So, I wrote a cheque and a short letter and posted it back to the hospice. It’s important to help each other and I like to give something back when I can. Life is so hard sometimes but we have to keep going and look after each other. Thank you for taking the time to read my story, it’s very much appreciated.”
How to dedicate your rainbow ribbon
To join Eric in supporting the Hope and Healing Appeal you can now dedicate a rainbow ribbon in memory of someone special to you. Rainbows are a symbol of hope and by dedicating a ribbon you will be raising vital funds to help grieving children have hope for happier times ahead.
Your ribbon will form part of a rainbow of colour which will decorate the grounds outside John Taylor Hospice from 10 August. Every ribbon will represent someone who has brought brightness and joy into our lives. And together the vibrant display of colours will be a powerful symbol of communities coming together to support children through difficult times.
The Hope and Healing Appeal aims to raise £10,000 to fund art therapy and counselling groups for children whose loved one had died. Generous gifts mean that we have so far raised over £8,000 – and with your help we will reach our target. Thank you so much for your amazing support. 💖