I’m Claire Walsh and I’d like to tell you about my husband Martin and his last wish – to have a good death, at home, with the people he loved.
Some people might think this sounds strange; your home is meant to be a special happy place, full of fun and love. But from the moment Martin was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2013, he knew that it was the only place he wanted to be. Hospice at Home helped me and my daughters, Lottie and Ella, give Martin this final act of love.
I was aware of Trinity, but I didn’t know about all of the things they did. To be honest, I thought it was just a place you went to die. But when Martin’s cancer was diagnosed as terminal, we were determined to be active and get on with everyday life. Trinity’s team was like a ‘security net’ – they were always there if we needed them, always on the end of the phone.
Then in February 2015, Martin was so poorly he ended up in the hospital. I know how special the NHS is, but the hospital just wasn’t the place for Martin. He wanted to be at home, with his family and friends. They told us we didn’t have much time left – just days. But Martin didn’t like doing what he was told; we had another four months together.
It was so important for our family to care for Martin ourselves, as much as we could manage. And this is one of the most important gifts that Hospice at Home gave us – the nurses empowered us to help, while still being there for the things we just couldn’t do. I remember when Martin got a syringe driver, it would fall out all the time. But it was never too much trouble for the team to come out and fix it. Martin’s eyes would light up when the nurses arrived because they weren’t strangers – they were his new friends.
It sounds odd to say Martin’s death was full of fun and love – but we laughed up until the very last day. One night, when we were all trying to sleep, Martin simply wasn’t having it. Around 4 am, he started singing ‘All You Need is Love’. I tried to remind him how late it was, but in the end the whole house got up and sat round his bed and had a party. Without Hospice at Home, we simply wouldn’t have had that time, together, in the place we spent our lives.
The night he died, Martin was with the people he loved – exactly where he wanted to be. Without the expert nurses at Trinity, I would have struggled. When I look back on it now, I think, what a wonderful thing. I know that we did everything we could have done. Because of that, we’ve been better able to cope with the grief and can look back on it with peace.
It is essential for Hospice at Home to reach more families like ours; my daughters and I are fundraising for Trinity. I couldn’t even run a bath, but completed the 5Km Colour Splash last summer! Martin had a good life and a good death. I shall be eternally grateful to Trinity for giving us the power, the strength and the confidence to grant Martin his last wish.