Remembering a loved one

THE Tree of Light Appeal was officially launched on Thursday, giving people the chance to see a light shining in memory of someone who cannot be with them this Christmas. The appeal, supported by the Weston & Somerset Mercury, raises much needed funds fo

THE Tree of Light Appeal was officially launched on Thursday, giving people the chance to see a light shining in memory of someone who cannot be with them this Christmas.The appeal, supported by the Weston & Somerset Mercury, raises much needed funds for Weston Hospicecare.The Tree of Light is in the Sovereign Shopping Centre in Weston High Street and, to mark the appeal launch, we spoke to one family who knows the true value of the hospice and its staff.Hannah Keating celebrated her 18th birthday on Monday and foremost in her mind was her mum, Cheryl, who died last year of ovarian cancer. With her three brothers and grandparents, the brave teenager lived the terrifying and life-changing trauma of losing someone to the disease.But as a family they were able to draw on each other's strength and face the tragedy together because of the support of the hospice in Uphill.Cheryl went to the doctors in 2003 suffering from pain in her side and stomach. After various tests and thoughts of gall stones and irritable bowel syndrome, doctors did a test for cancer. It was all clear.Convinced there was something still wrong, Cheryl decided to go back to the hospital and refused to leave until they found out what was wrong. It was then they found an enormous growth which was mostly cancerous.The 47-year-old underwent an operation which included a hysterectomy and removing her spleen, but it was too late and the mother-of-four was given three years to live.Her mum, Jean Milton, of Brent Knoll, said: "She was so positive and wanted to live for the children so much. I didn't realise my daughter was so strong. She was utterly amazing during those times. You never expect your children to die before you do, she was much braver than I was."She helped prepare everyone for what was going to happen and so much of what the children do now they do with her in mind."Despite having volunteered at the hospice for 16 years, Jean said arranging for her to be admitted to the hospice was the hardest thing she has ever done in her life."I knew that it was a wonderful place, but I never imagined I would need to take my daughter there," she said."She didn't want to go at first because there is always that knowledge that it might be the end. But I told myself that even if she hated me for the rest of her time left, I couldn't have her in any pain. I will never know how I managed to walk behind her wheelchair out of the ambulance."But when I saw the visible relief on her face of being somewhere so comfortable and relaxing and getting the right painkillers, we both knew it was right. The staff were fantastic and looked after all of us, which must have been a tremendous effort. I can't speak highly enough of them."Cheryl's twin sons, James and Richard, now aged 24, took turns to sleep at their mother's side and Jean was there all day.Jonathan, the eldest, became head of the family and took on the role of looking after them all even though he was only 18 months older than his brothers. Hannah was doing her GCSEs at the time, and when it came to her leavers' prom, her mum managed to help her choose her dress.Jean said: "It was really important to her because she knew she would never be able to help pick her wedding dress."The prom was on the Friday and Hannah was planning to go into the hospice before the do to show her mum how she looked.But two days before, the doctors asked Hannah if she would do a dress rehearsal for her mum because she was deteriorating.Jean said: "We helped Hannah get all dressed up with a tiara and everything and when she walked into the room the boys held Cheryl up so she could see her and she just said 'how beautiful'. The next day she died. I honestly think she thought Hannah was off to the prom that night and was fighting to live until she went because she didn't want to spoil her day."Hannah was so brave, just like her mum, and went to the prom, but it was incredibly sad," said Jean.Hannah, who now works at Yew Tree Nursery, said: "The motto that the hospice adds something to life that cannot be added is so true."It was horrible seeing my mum in pain, but the hospice helped her."There is a lovely garden there where I used to push her in her wheelchair and go for a walk and she told me her last wishes."The nurses talked us through every stage so we knew exactly what to expect and knew when she was going to die."If it wasn't for the way she died I don't think I would have been able to think about it at all."After she died I didn't want to go into her room because it felt like her soul had left. But a few days later I went to see her in the chapel of rest and light a candle, which made the funeral much easier."Cheryl, who lived in Lower Weare, was a business development specialist and would have turned 51 years old on Saturday.Her family wants to encourage people to support the Tree of Light Appeal and this Christmas remember someone they have lost.

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