Darrell's story

"Anything I could do or say is just not enough thanks for what they do there. It is a truly remarkable place."

Debbie recalls the experience her late husband, Darrell, had at St John's Hospice
"Everything has a beginning and an end. This is the story of my beloved Darrell, who sadly passed away, but it is still a story which sad ending came with magical ease – thanks to St John’s Hospice.

"Before his time at Sue Ryder, Darrell was in hospital for about eight weeks - with a couple of returns home, but each time he was soon back in the hospital with infections. I stayed with him nearly all the time. Darrell was a private man so I always washed and bathed him, and made him look beautiful.

"Towards the end of being in quite a hectic and noisy hospital, I could see Darrell going downhill. It was a Friday morning, and the doctors suggested to us that Darrell went and had some peaceful time as an inpatient in our local hospice - St John’s. I took their advice, and went with him too. Wherever Darrell was, I would be there too.

"By 10am on the Monday morning we were on our way, Darrell was taken by ambulance and I came home to get a few bits before going to the hospice. I was very sad at home. I looked out onto our beautiful garden and shook my head. I shed a tear as I looked out, knowing Darrell was never going to see the garden that he had nurtured and loved. Gaining my composure and not wanting to waste any more time I went on my way to the hospice.

A peaceful and caring environment

"On arrival I was taken straight up to the room where Darrell was. I sat by his bed, my first thought was ‘I don’t know whether I want us to be here or not.’ It seemed so quiet after the rat race of the hospital, almost too quiet I thought! I wanted to take him home. But this must have been a split second thought, because as soon as the first nurse arrived she made everything okay.

"How friendly, how kind and how helpful she was. How nice of her it was to bring me a cup of tea. It was a stressful time, but my mind was put at ease about one thing; we had made the right decision. That night I could see these where not just nurses; they were like angels in disguise. A thought went through my head, how do these nurses do this? They were amazing, I just could not put into words how brilliant they were to both of us, they were not just looking after Darrell but they looked after me too. That night I had some tea in their lovely lounge downstairs. I came back up to see that they had washed and seen to Darrell, they looked after him like he was the king (well, actually he was in my eyes).

"They respected him immensely"


"The next morning the doctor came and I couldn’t believe that even the doctors were angels too! She was so kind and caring. The doctor called me into the hall and told me Darrell did not have too much longer, hours more than days. She asked me if I would like someone to sit with me in the lounge but I was okay, I just wanted to be with Darrell. They decided to move us to a room nearer the nurses' station, and during that couple of days I stayed there the whole time. There was a couple of lovely tea areas where I could get something to eat and drink, and nothing I asked for was too much trouble. I looked out of the window onto their lovely gardens and told Darrell how lovely it was. There were bird houses, it is a lovely place for the birds - which we both had a love of.

"By the Wednesday evening I called Darrell’s son and daughter-in-law to say they had better come over; which of course they did. We all sat by Darrell laughing, crying and stroking Darrell’s hand as we knew the inevitable was coming. Darrell’s son, Steven, went and laid downstairs for a couple of hours, so the night nurses got him comfy while myself and Sarah stayed in the room with Darrell on some very comfy loungers. I told the night nurse I could barely keep my eyes open, she said: "don’t worry, you sleep I will keep my eye on him for you." I managed to nod on and off, which gave me a bit of strength.

"As we got to the morning Darrell was breathing very erratically, the nurses kept popping in to check that we were all okay and tea was offered all the time. Around 10.15am I noticed that Darrell’s eyes where fixed and glazed. I knew, I just knew.

"A nurse appeared as if by magic, she sat down with us and said that Darrell had gone. She suggested that she went and made us all a nice strong cup of tea, and once we had finished she asked if we would mind just stepping out of the room for a few minutes, when we were ready, so she could make Darrell more comfortable. This is how angels look after people who have passed away! The likeness to me was unbelievable. When we went back into the room he was lying on his back looking so peaceful. The nurse told us we could spend as much time with him as we wanted. We spent a couple of hours with him, it was so enchanting, and so calm that it almost seemed unreal. When it was time to leave, Steven and Sarah said their goodbyes, and then I did too.

"I held his hand and told him that I loved him, and always will do. I told him that although I was leaving his body there, I was taking his heart and keeping it with mine forever.

Care until the end

"We left in the knowledge that, in all this sadness there is this magical enchanting place called Sue Ryder St.John's. A place where if given the chance when it comes to the end of our lives, we should all be going!

"Anything I could do or say is just not enough thanks for what they do there. It is a truly remarkable place.

"This isn’t the end for me, it is just the beginning. I have decided to help and do what I can to help St. John's. It brings me great comfort knowing that I can give something back. Thanks for reading.

Read more about our end of life care