An RAF officer with a love of singing and a fun-loving home cook are amongst those being remembered by their loved ones at a Derbyshire charity’s annual memorial service.

Treetops Hospice Care, which provides nursing care and emotional support for adults with life-limiting conditions and those who’ve been bereaved, will hold their ‘Light Up A Life’ service online this year, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The service, which will take place from 5pm on Sunday, December 6 via the charity’s website, is available to anyone that wishes to remember a loved one who has died, either during the Coronavirus pandemic, or in previous years.

People can make an online dedication in a loved one’s name to shine as a light on the hospice Christmas tree, which will be switched on during the service.

This will be Treetops eighth Light Up a Life service, but the first where due to social distancing restrictions, people will be unable to attend the service in person at the hospice.

An opportunity to remember someone special in our lives

Treetops Chief Executive, Julie Heath, explained more:

“Grieving those who have died has been especially difficult this year, often without the proximity of family and close friends who can provide us with real comfort and support.

“Light Up a Life is an opportunity for us all to take a few moments to remember someone special in our lives, reflect on the happier times we’ve shared and watch as the lights on our tree shine in their memory.

“We hope as many people as possible from across the city, county and further afield can join us on Sunday 6 December.”

A young Annie Tierney and mum

A young Annie Tierney and mum

Amongst those supporting this year’s Light Up a Life is Annie Tierney and her family, from Ockbrook. Annie’s mum, Josie, was diagnosed with terminal cancer just four months before her death.

Just four months later, we had to say our final goodbyes

Annie explained more:

“Mum was the life and soul of the party; a rough diamond who worked hard and never stopped talking, so kind and generous. She loved her garden, bingo and her caravan. Mum was a fabulous cook and enjoyed baking and she’d often send round meals and cakes on a regular basis.

“She was diagnosed with aggressive Stage 4 gall bladder cancer. It was a bolt out of the blue and just four months later, we had to say our final goodbyes. She was just 69 when she died.

“I had moved in with mum to help care for her, around my family and jobs. It was draining and stressful and a worry as I hadn’t ever cared for anybody like this before.

“Watching my mum deteriorate day to day was heart breaking but I felt very privileged and blessed to have the time with her.”

Such a relief and comfort to know I wasn’t on my own

Annie Tierney with mum and husband

Annie Tierney with mum and brother

Treetops provided Hospice at Home nurses for Josie, so Annie could take a much-needed break.

“Sometimes I went home to sleep in my own bed and other times I stayed but having somebody with me allowed me to have a rest and an expert around to call upon.

“It made a huge difference and was such a relief and comfort to know I wasn’t on my own, especially through the nights.

“When the nurses came in the last few days, they made me feel safe and helped prepare me for mum’s death. They were with her when she died and helped me by calling the doctor and the undertaker, and cleaning and dressing her.

The nurses were literally angels that, at a difficult time, I could not have done without

“I remember a day or so after mum had died, I got a call from Treetops. They shared some stories about the times the nurses had been with mum and it made me both laugh and cry, but it was a great comfort. It was like a friend calling – it was so sincere and heartfelt.

“The nurses were literally angels that, at a difficult time, I could not have done without. Light Up a Life is my way of remembering mum and supporting Treetops.”

Sam Wallace will be remembering her late wife, Jen, who died last year aged just 44yrs.

She was the perfect partner and she brought out the best in me

Happy couple with young child smilingSam, 49, from Long Eaton, and Jen, who was an RAF Officer, met through their mutual love of singing in 2017:

“Jen came to coach the chorus that I sing with – she was an amazing musician – and we got to know each other over the course of the year. She was the most wonderful human being – incredibly talented and with a genuine warmth and humanity that made people love her.

“For me, she was the perfect partner: loving, kind, thoughtful and she brought out the best in me. She also stepped straight into a role as step mum to my daughter Katie who’s now nearly ten.”

We got married just two weeks before she died

Jen, who Sam describes as her ‘soul mate’, died just two weeks after the couple got married.

“Jen was already on sick leave when we met. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017.  She was very unlucky: she got her primary and secondary diagnosis at the same time. In December 2016, she was hit in the chest by a football and noticed a lump that wouldn’t go away.

“Investigations showed it was breast cancer, which had already metastasised and spread to her liver. She had a mastectomy and chemotherapy but unfortunately the cancer was aggressive.

“We only had just over a year together before we got the awful news that Jen’s liver was failing, and she was given weeks to live. We got married at Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield, just two weeks before she died.”

I realised the second year without Jen was going to be even tougher

Just over a year after Jen died, Sam realised she wasn’t coping and found out about bereavement counselling available at Treetops:

“I had got through all the first anniversaries and thought I was doing okay but I was still finding things very difficult and I realised the second year without Jen was going to be even tougher.

“I spent most of my first session at Treetops sobbing, as all the pent-up emotion poured out, but I was made to feel completely comfortable and secure. It was such a relief and comfort to hear that I could use the service for as long as I needed, and I could come back at any time.

“I have found grief to be a very lonely place. In the first few weeks after Jen’s death, I had lots of help from friends and family, but as time passes people move on with their lives.

“When we lose someone we love, all we really want to do is keep them close, and we do this by telling their story, and the story of our relationship with them, and we need to do this over and over again for a long time. This is not always possible with friends or family.

Treetops gives me faith in the kindness of humanity, and I can’t thank them enough

“My counsellor was brilliant, so understanding and kind. It really helped just to have someone to talk to about Jen, about how she died and our life together, without feeling that I was being a burden or upsetting others.

“She helped me feel that whatever I was feeling was normal and perfectly understandable. No-one expects you to ‘get better’ or ‘get over it’. Everyone understands that’s just not how grief works and there really is no need to be alone.

“Treetops gives me faith in the kindness of humanity, and I can’t thank them enough.”

Light Up a Life dedications can be made by anyone who wishes to remember a loved one.

The online service is available from 5pm on Sunday 6 December and includes music and readings.

Dedications made before 22 November can also be included in the Light Up a Life service, if requested.

Further information on making a dedication and viewing the online service is available online here