Monika Lind is walking 41 km for 41 years of marriage in memory of her husband Paul, as part of our March for Martlets event. She tells us about the care and support Martlets gave Paul and their family towards the end of his life.
“I’ll never forget the first time I walked into Martlets – I immediately felt the peace in that building; it was just remarkable. All we did was have a cup of coffee in the café, but I could tell it was a special place. It was somewhere that I wanted my husband Paul to be able to spend his last days.
I had been Paul’s carer at home for the six months prior to that. But we had agreed that we would go to Martlets towards the end. Then I could stop being his carer and focus on being his wife again. Knowing that I could call on Martlets day or night gave me the reassurance that they would take over that carer role.
Hospice care at home
Paul had liver disease and two months before he died, his specialist referred us to Martlets. It’s so important to make people aware that Martlets doesn’t only care for cancer patients. They support people with other terminal illnesses too.
In July 2019, I decided to retire so that we could enjoy our retirement together. But it wasn’t to be. Paul was ill and I became his carer. It was quite a sudden shift and it was some time before our wonderful GP made me aware of the help I could get. At this point Martlets were contacted who were amazing in every respect.
We had a wonderfully reassuring visit from Martlets. They got to know us and let us know what we were entitled to. Two days after we got the phone call from Martlets, all the equipment we required was here. We were given a hospital bed, an electric recliner chair, a walker and a special toilet chair – everything we needed. This wasn’t just equipment, but also things like physical therapy and respite for me as a carer. I always knew they were there on the phone 24 hours a day if I needed advice or practical help.
Three years ago now, I started keeping a five-year memory book; an idea a friend gave me. You add a line a day about what you feel grateful for. Martlets featured a lot during those difficult times. I wrote about their encouraging visits as well as the respite care which meant I could have some time off.
I didn’t even realise respite care existed. When I was first offered it I didn’t know what to do; I hadn’t had any time to myself in ages. That was when my son suggested I meet him and we go and have a coffee in Martlets’ café. We had never actually been into the Hospice, just had contact by phone or at home. We’d had an appointment for my husband to go in and access services. But he quickly became too weak to go anywhere. Feeling the peaceful energy of the place was an amazing experience.
Care on our inpatient unit
Paul only had three days in the inpatient unit at the end because his health deteriorated quickly. I was hoping at the end I’d be able to sit down and talk with him as husband and wife about things. But the morning after he was taken in, he lost consciousness. My son, my daughter and I were there the entire time though. The staff were never on top of us or in our way. Yet somehow they knew exactly when we needed them to step in for support. I know that’s their job, but you can see that it’s so much more than just a job to them. You can feel it.
One amazing nurse answered all our questions because we didn’t know what to expect at the end. She told us that it is an absolute honour to be allowed to share that special moment with a person who is dying. That has stayed with me. What I find so remarkable is the way they consistently treated Paul with such sensitivity and respect. They did that even when he was heavily sedated and may not have known what was going on. All the staff spoke to him with the utmost respect at all times, as if he were fully awake. That was something that was just incredible to me.
The staff are so busy, yet they take that time to do that. And that happened even when we weren’t in the room. At one point I’d stepped outside the door and they didn’t know I was there. But I could hear that there was still that same respect for him and that is just priceless.
One evening, my son got some pizza for himself, my daughter and me. The three of us ate it sitting in my husband’s room (we never left his side); we were playing games and laughing together. You might find that an odd thing to do, but we were in a situation we had never been in. I mentioned to a nurse who came in that we felt a bit guilty about that given the circumstances. She was amazing though and said there are no rules at end of life; whatever your family feels like doing is right for you. That was so helpful. They were never ever patronising at any point.
Caring for the whole family
The evening we took Paul into Martlets, my son’s wife phoned him. She let him know that my six-year-old granddaughter had asked if Paul was dying and she’d had to tell him that he was. We were all upset and uncertain as to how to handle the situation. The doctor had overheard though and later a Martlets social worker spoke with us. They asked if we’d like to have a conversation about how best to talk to children about death. They didn’t have to step in and offer that, but we really appreciated it; my son as well as my daughter who have two young children each.
Since Paul died, my daughter has had some bereavement counselling sessions from a counsellor at Martlets. These have been on the telephone during COVID. During our stay at Martlets, we found the Sanctuary such a peaceful space. I would have loved to have been able to go there after my husband’s death, but COVID put a stop to that. Once COVID restrictions are lifted, I will treasure being able to go there. It was such a lovely place to remember and reflect and find peace.
I’d also like people to know that Martlets doesn’t just offer care at the very end of someone’s life. There are services for people and their families who are affected by terminal illness, but not yet at the end stages. For example, wellbeing classes and therapies, and social activities. There’s also the respite care, and emotional support for carers; bereavement support before and after the death of a loved one.
Walking 41 km to celebrate 41 years of marriage
My admiration for the people working at Martlets is immense and that goes for every single person working there. They go so far beyond their duty, yet at no point do you feel they are doing something they have to do. It’s done because they care. They deserve all the support they can get so that’s why I’m fundraising for them. If you can help too, then please do. Without Martlets I don’t know what we would have done. And there must be many more families like us out there who need their support.
My family has been supporting Martlets in different ways and will continue to do so. Paul and I were married for 41 years. During that time, we lived in different countries, made friends all over the world and made wonderful memories; memories I and my children and their families will treasure forever. This is why in March, coinciding with the first anniversary of my husband’s memorial service, I will be walking 41 km. One kilometre for each of those 41 years of marriage.
I will do this over 10 days and family members and friends have already offered to walk with me on some of those days. I also have my ‘talking books’ to listen to on headphones while I’m walking. I have a treadmill as a last resort should the weather be too horrible, but I intend to get out every day.
While I am hoping for more, I didn’t want to appear too greedy. So I set my fundraising goal at £200 on my fundraising page. Please do sponsor me if you can and let’s help Martlets keep on caring for everyone who needs them.”