Tony Ward is a poet and a writer in his retirement and has been a supporter of St Wilfrid’s for many years. He first became aware of the hospice when he kindly chose to share the proceeds of his book ‘Unravelling East Sussex’ with us, after having witnessed hospice work up in Surrey, where his daughter in law’s father died.

He also shared his royalties, from the National Memory Day Poetry Competition - Alzheimer’s Society prize, with the hospice in 2018. The Alzheimer’s Society is a charity also close to his heart, since his late mother and his wife Sheila, who donated her wedding dress to the hospice, were both diagnosed with dementia. Sheila is now in the EMI Care Home, Rivendale Lodge, but enjoys visits from Tony and their dog Rino, who is now an extended family member of the care home.  

Tony enjoyed writing, especially poetry, when he was a younger and was published by the time he was a teenager, but his time soon turned to keeping up with the world of computing which was ‘always changing’. Himself and Sheila moved to South Devon to retire, but it wasn’t until they returned to Eastbourne, to be closer to their children and grandchildren, when he returned to his love of words and wrote a monthly column in Sussex Life Magazine called Poetry +.

His time writing poetry for the magazine lasted for three years and you can find it in the archives on their website. After two years, however, ‘people were saying “these should be in a collection”.’ It was then that he began working with the History Press to write his book, which takes you ‘around the county in riddles’, and is now sold in major stores across Sussex, such as Waterstones and WHSmith.

The book is split in to three sections – famous places in East Sussex, in West Sussex, and famous Sussex people. Each chapter begins with a poem which contains clues of the location or individual on the following page. ‘They scratch their head a bit, and then they turn the page. It’s great fun, but some people just like to read them as short stories.’

‘We sold out of the first print run. It went down very well.’

As well as poetry, Tony also writes for the Alzheimer’s Society blog, including a special Mother’s Day article called ‘Mother's Day and dementia: The warmth of her smile was the summer sun’, where he has shared a lovely poem that he wrote in memory of his mother, Gladys.

Today, on Mothering Sunday, we would like to share that poem with you now.

The Homecoming
By Tony Ward

My dead mother welcomed us home.
Nine hundred years of prayers curled upwards,
‘We remember those whose anniversary of death falls at this time...’
I had forgotten the date.
Three weeks of sorting boxes and hanging curtains had stolen time.
Until that Sunday.

‘Peace be with you.’
I saw her face, smiling again.
Not frightened. Not angry at lost memories. Thirty three not ninety three.
I was a child again on the beach. The warmth of her smile was the summer sun.
Happiness welled within me. There were no tears.

Three weeks since an anxious, snow bright journey home to mugs of tea, kindness and chaos.
Friends of my youth wore old faces I did not recognise.
Faded photographs strained to reawaken past lives, shared anew.
A past life. A new life.

‘Keep out of the reach and sight of children’.
She never did.
Three generations of outstretched arms gave the lie to that.
A tablet of another kind, in the churchyard, inscribed with name and date alone does not enclose her life.
She will always be there, to reach out, to comfort.
Welcome home.