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Saint Michael's Hospice
In January 2017, Jim Withyman, a barrister based in York, originally from Spalding, spent his final weeks with his family by his side at Saint Michael’s Hospice, Harrogate. His daughter Grace, aged 16, and her mum Liz share their memories of a cherished father and husband.
Liz said: “To come to the lovely surroundings at Saint Michael’s was magical - even in those awful circumstances, we felt so blessed to have a place. We had our six final weeks together there, where the whole family was incredibly well supported and cared for.
“The outside areas brought Jim enormous joy - the birdlife, trees, view and in the evening on the balcony, the stars…. such a beautiful place for Jim to spend his last days.
“We had a perfect place for goodbyes in a 'bubble of love and sorrow in equal measure' (which is how I described our hospice experience to friends at the time).
“We established a daily routine, which we both enjoyed. I’d come in the morning and share his breakfast toast, then he’d be hoisted into his wheelchair and we’d go out for a walk or to sit in the beautiful grounds. We had a recliner chair next to his bed and in the afternoons we’d have a kip together. The room was so lovely, not like a medical environment.
“The children would come whenever they wanted to and the staff made it clear they could sleep over too.
“In the run up to Christmas we had friends round to visit us in the hospice. We were able to go and have coffee in the grounds and have a chat and a laugh with space and privacy to be ourselves.
“On Christmas Day, the staff brought us all extra breakfast which we enjoyed together. Then, we opened some presents and the children watched TV while eating Quality Street - just like we would have done at home.
“Christmas dinner was a delicious, lovingly prepared meal with all the trimmings, even crackers and hats.
“Then, we settled down to watch Christmas films together - just hanging out together as a family.
“It was lovely to be able to bring our much loved dogs into the hospice too, and have them in the room and even on the bed for a cuddle with Jim.
“During that six weeks, the hospice was the scene of many a family gathering and the hospice staff did everything they could do make us all feel welcome and looked after. Jim was able to be at the centre of it all.”
Grace said: “Dad was in the hospice at Christmastime — which is obviously meant to be a happy, family time of year. Saint Michael’s ensured it stayed that way, despite my dad’s illness.
“When it was close to his final few days, I really appreciated the staff who made such a point of making sure we were all ok, and telling me what was happening.
“My amazing, kind and brave dad passed away on January 15th. He was 49.”
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