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“I’m lucky that I had the most amazing man in my life” says Crawley woman whos husband received care at St Catherines Hospice

To tie in with Valentine’s Day, Valerie Phelps from Crawley, reflects on the care her husband Les received from St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley, West Sussex.

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“My husband, Les, was an amazing man and the kindness he always gave out was rewarded with the kindness and care he received from the Community Team at St Catherine’s Hospice.

Les was a straightforward, military, no fuss man. He had the biggest heart and said few words. Some days, we would spend the whole time in each other’s company hardly saying a word to each other, unless he wanted a cup of tea which was often! My family always believed that I was the stronger of the two of us and the one who pulled all the strings. But how wrong they were! I’m actually the weaker of us. It was Les who managed our home in every way, with his quiet nature, kindness and love for me, his family and anyone else who needed his help.

When St Catherine’s Community Team first became involved with Les, it came across that I was the strong one. But as the nurses came to know him, they realised he was an amazingly strong man. And although a man of few words, the few he spoke, often spoke volumes. Together, I and the hospice nurses, who helped manage Les’s pain, had to do things slowly as he wasn’t only battling cancer and facing end of life, but was also battling PTSD from his time in the military. During that time I learnt things about my husband that he’d always shielded from me before. His drugs started to bring out the horrors of what he had gone through at different times in the forces, but fortunately for him he remembered very little of this.

When the consultant first mentioned referring Les to St Catherine’s, it was like he’d thrown a brick at Les’s head. To Les, a hospice just meant a bed, a room and him dying alone with strangers. He was inconsolable for several days until a St Catherine’s nurse came to see him at home.

I was absolutely amazed at the courage he managed to find in making the decisions he did after speaking with her for the first time. It was a great comfort to know that we could speak openly and honestly with the hospice team and to know that Les’s wish of dying at home was going to be met, if possible. Although we were aware that if there were complications he may have to go to the hospital or the hospice.

As the weeks progressed, Les decided that he would like to speak with the hospice chaplain after finding his baptism certificate. The first time, we did this together as Les was becoming weaker and I had to be his voice, but even then, Les made Lisa, the chaplain, and I laugh. Les had a few more sessions with Lisa alone and the peace she left in him helped us both. Her kindness and understanding to me in losing someone I’ve loved since I was teenager was also amazing.

When the time came, I could see Les’s eyes glazing over. I kept asking if he was in pain and he said no, just uncomfortable. I told Les I loved him and that I didn’t want to lose him, but that I wouldn’t beg him to stay. Our son, Neil put his arms around his Dad, and gently whispered to him that his two brothers (who’d already passed away) were waiting for him at the bar and that the older one had his hand in his pocket. He told his dad that it was okay for him to go as he shouldn’t miss the opportunity of a free drink!

We put Les’s cat, Luna, on the bed and ten minutes later, with two sweet silent breaths my wonderful man left me in the way he wanted. Peacefully in his own home with his family around him. It was something that was only possible thanks to St Catherine’s expert support and wonderful team.

Although Les’s loss has been hard to bear, I’m lucky that I had the most amazing man in my life. People reading this may think it’s painful for me to share this, and in a way it is, but in another way it’s also helping me to heal. It’s important that the perception of hospice care and what it means is changed. Yes, across the UK there will be people who have to be in their local hospice, because that’s their choice, or because they aren’t lucky enough to have the family or amazing network of support around them that we did, but the majority of people are looked after, and able to stay in the comfort of their own homes.

Without St Catherine’s, I don’t know how we, as a family, would have got through things. With hospice care you’re not alone. Without people like the St Catherine’s team in our lives the world would be a very sad place. And that’s something I’ve come to realise. Although we never want to lose our loved ones, death doesn’t have to be as painful as we believe it will be.

I’m so glad I’ve had the privilege of St Catherine’s kindness, help and care for both my wonderful husband and myself.”

To find out more about the work of St Catherine’s Hospice or to make a donation please visit: www.stch.org.uk

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Napoleonic barracks re-opened in Charlwood

On Saturday 6th April Providence Chapel in Charlwood, Surrey, was officially re-opened by Councillor Helyn Clack, Vice-Chair of Surrey County.

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Councillor Helyn Clack, Vice-Chair of Surrey County re-opening the barracks.

The event commenced at 12 noon with a display of Napoleonic soldiering by the 2nd/95th Regiment re-enactors. 

They stood guard at the Chapel and then commenced an impressive rifle display in the field opposite the Chapel discharging as many as half a dozen period rifles at any one time (firing blanks) and demonstrating some of the more common manoeuvres that their counterparts would have undertaken 200 years ago. 

Quote from the sergeant of the 2nd/95th Regiment –  ‘Why are we here? – Because this is our spiritual home. This building is where it all began. This building is the start of our famous story’

The Chapel holds a special place in the hearts of 2/95th as the regiment was originally billeted in Horsham barracks where the Chapel was constructed as part of the barracks in 1797.  In 1815 it was dismantled and moved to Charlwood and re-erected there as a nonconformist Chapel.

The re-enactors continued to display throughout the afternoon with fascinating explanations concerning their formation and unique features and how they revolutionised warfare. 

A local group of singers and musicians sang Napoleonic period songs in the Chapel and in between the entertainment attendees enjoyed inspecting the building and learning about its history and renovation from the exhibition and trustees/partners/volunteers.   

A selection of photographs and a short video from the event appear on https://www.providencechapelcharlwood.org/gallery.php

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