St Catherine’s is another part of me now
Steph Barclay had never had contact with a hospice, until her dad, Julian Rueff, required end of life care in early 2016.
The care and support that St Catherine’s provided her dad inspired her to fundraise, and now she is donating 10% of all her fees to St Catherine’s from her new social media consultancy, High Weald Marketing.
Steph explains: “Dad’s illness started with kidney cancer but it just spread so quickly. He moved from East Surrey Hospital to Guys in London and then onto St Catherine’s.
“When Dad moved to the hospice we knew it was for end of life care. My mum is very pragmatic and although she was very emotional, we knew that he didn’t have long left. I just wanted him not to suffer.
“St Catherine’s felt like a safe space for him. I had never encountered a hospice before and building myself up to do it was quite a big thing for me, but inside, the hospice felt safe and homely. The staff were so geared up for anything – they were ready for any emotion.
“There are two main memories I have of Dad in the hospice. The first features a bird feeder because when dad arrived at the hospice the people who had used the room before him had placed a bird feeder on the window. Dad had a real love of being outside – it was his passion for being outdoors that gave me my love of nature too. He enjoyed watching birds, so it was one tiny shred of normality to watch them in the hospice garden. It gave my Mum and Dad something to talk about which wasn’t depressing or difficult. For us it was a special memory to watch him enjoying the birds.
“The second memory seems so silly but was so important at the same time – it’s the drinks trolley. When we first arrived, we were asked if we’d like anything to drink and then this drinks trolley appeared. My Mum and Dad sat there drinking their Bristol Cream sherry, Dad could just about manage to sip it. My mum really appreciated it too, she’s not a big drinker but just occasionally she’ll have a drink and I can remember the messages she sent me while she was at the hospice with Dad saying, “I’ve got my sherry and I’m just sitting down for a minute.”
“When my sister and I lived at home we always had a traditional roast on a Sunday and my parents would have a little Bristol Cream beforehand. I was in Asda the other day and I spotted it on the shelf, and I immediately thought of Dad.
“After someone dies anything can upset you, and you learn to put barriers up against them, but over time some things can make you smile. Seven years down the line, whenever I see Bristol Cream, I smile and think of Dad.
“Both of these memories, the bird feeder and the drinks trolley, were so important because they helped to give Dad normality. I have a picture of Dad in the hospice and he was sitting in bed, his pyjamas on, looking weak and thin, but he was still smiling.
“Once I’d stepped across the threshold of St Catherine’s and seen the care for my Dad, I knew I had to support the hospice somehow.
“So, when I set up my social media consultancy, High Weald Marketing, I decided to fundraise for the charity by donating 10% of every fee I earn into the St Catherine’s pot!
“I explain to my clients why I’ve chosen the charity and they have been very supportive. I love working with small business owners who have a passion for their business, and I help to give them advice about their social media. I was at an event a couple of weeks ago and the St Catherine’s pens and leaflets I had on display became a talking point. I feel if people use my business they are getting me and St Catherine’s is another part of me now.
“My business birthday is the end of March when I will have been supporting the hospice for a full year. I like to think that the money I have donated will help to fund bird feeders and the drinks trolley for other patients and their families to enjoy.
“To anyone thinking of using the hospice I would say, don’t be scared. Whatever it is that is normal for you, don’t be afraid to ask for it in the hospice. If you want a Sunday dinner on a Wednesday or ice cream in the middle of the night, they will probably turn it out for you. If you don’t ask, they can’t say yes!”
To find out more about Steph’s social media consultancy, visit High Weald Marketing