The year 2020 has seen Wimbledon, Glastonbury, the Summer Olympics, the European Football Championship, and the Eurovision Song Contest cancelled. Neil and Jan Walden's garden party at their home in Gidea Park was no exception to the social distancing rule.
Their annual gathering raises money for Saint Francis Hospice through plant, cake, tea and coffee sales.
"We were racking our brains to come up with an alternative way to fundraise," Jan explained.
After much deliberation, the pair came up with a simple solution to sell succulents: a group of long-living plants that store water in their thick and fleshy leaves. Neil and Jan grew the plants in their garden, sold arrangements at between £3-10 apiece by advertising on Facebook, and raised an excellent £240 for us.
The couple has been supporting our Hospice ever since we cared for Jan's dad, Stan, in 2015. Stan was 81 years old when he felt a lump by his ribs. After a diagnosis of spindle cell sarcoma, Stan underwent radiotherapy to shrink a particularly large tumour, plus gruelling surgery.
"The surgeons thought they'd got it all, and we were very hopeful" Jan recalled.
Six months after being given the all-clear, a routine check-up revealed that cancer had spread to Stan's lungs. Stan wanted to know how long he had left to live. He and his family wanted to cram as much as possible into his final few months.
"We took him everywhere — from the coast to the country", Jan recollected.
Jan and her mum, Iris, were suddenly plunged into caring for Stan. It was then that our Hospice at Home team stepped in to ease the pressure on them.
"We were at breaking point before the nurses arrived," Jan revealed. "We couldn't cope with being awake all night and trying to care for Dad. We could finally get some sleep — knowing he was in safe hands. The care was incredible. Dad's health steadied, and we said that we thought he'd go on for some time yet, but the next day, he died. That was typical of Dad; he liked springing surprises on people!"
Jan's now appealing for others to support our Hospice so that we make it through the coronavirus pandemic.
"Thanks to Saint Francis Hospice, Dad could stay at home, which is what he wanted," she said. "Please help if you can; patients spending their final moments in their place of choice is invaluable."
You can do something incredible for people just like Stan by supporting our Urgent Appeal — for as little as £3 a month. You can find out how you can make a difference here.