What’s it like spending Christmas Day at the hospice?

I joined St Wilfrid’s Hospice in November 2022 as the new Trust and Foundation Fundraiser 

When an e-mail landed in my inbox asking for volunteers on the Inpatient Unit (IPU) over Christmas, I was excited to offer my help. Having worked in domiciliary care work for a number of years, I’m no stranger to working on Christmas Day. I often miss the contact with patients, so I was grateful for the opportunity.

Arriving on Christmas morning

The morning of my volunteer shift I felt more nervous than expected. Despite having worked many Christmases supporting people in their own homes, I wasn’t sure what to expect in a hospice. I was acutely aware that for many of those I would see today it would be their last Christmas. How should I act? Should I bring the festive spirit, or be more subdued? 

When I arrived for my 12pm shift, the mood in the hospice was cheerful and I was greeted by one of our lovely volunteers. I got changed into my scrubs and headed down to the volunteer area, where I was met by one of the regular Host Volunteers who was smiling and preparing trays, practically on autopilot. I instantly relaxed, knowing I was in very capable hands. 

Side note: our Host Volunteers are fantastic. Many of them have had someone close to them die in the hospice and give up a lot of their time to ‘pay back’ for the care their loved ones received here. It’s incredibly admirable to hear their stories and I am in constant awe of their kindness, knowledge and dedication. 

Dinner is served

We bustled about, preparing to serve dinner and making drinks. I followed instructions and tried to be as helpful as possible. I spent time familiarising myself with the patients and their preferences to ensure everyone got what they needed.  

The Christmas dinners arrived ready for us to serve – beautiful plates stacked with turkey and all the trimmings (plus delicious vegetarian alternatives) – to the patients and their loved ones. We pushed the trolley round and delivered the meals to each room, along with warm Christmas puddings for a sweet treat.

Moments I will cherish

Although I’m a bit of a Grinch generally, I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend Christmas Day. I was relieved to see one of the patients wearing a ‘Bah Humbug’ hat – I knew we’d get along well. I complimented him on his hat and we laughed together, a moment I will cherish

Another patient handed each of us a card with ‘Be Lucky’ written on the envelope – inside hid a scratch card for each of us with the words ‘Thank you for being you’ written inside. I nearly cried at this incredibly kind gesture (I didn’t win, although I was secretly grateful for this as I would’ve much preferred one of the regular volunteers to instead!)

Family members ebbed in and out throughout the shift, each one of them stopping to thank me for being here. I felt undeserving of this praise compared to the staff and volunteers who work tirelessly, 24/7, to support these patients. I was grateful nonetheless.   

At 4pm my shift was finished, and I went home with a full heart. I spent the rest of the evening with my husband, grateful for the perspective on what really matters at Christmas time, making a mental note to be less grinchy next year and more grateful for the privilege to be able to celebrate these moments.


Click here to learn more about volunteering at St Wilfrid’s Hospice.

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