Hospice offers life story writing service

When 99-year-old Audrey spent a few months as an inpatient at the hospice, she wasn’t expecting to have her life story turned into a book. But that’s exactly what happened, thanks to a new service being run by our Community Support Volunteers.

After a bit of reticence from Audrey, she agreed to meet volunteer Bill. The pair spent three sessions together where Bill heard all about Audrey’s husband, son, grandchildren and great grandchildren. On the fourth session he read the story out and made any tweaks.

Bill said: ‘Audrey was initially a bit reluctant as she didn’t think her life was very interesting, but once we started talking, I could tell that a lot had happened. For a start she’d had five marriage proposals and worked at a posh restaurant near the theatres called The Carlisle, where she met a few famous people. She also took a Ward Maid position at St Mary’s Hospital in Old Town during the war and went on to become a phlebotomist at the DGH. My dad was the pathologist at St Mary’s Hospital in the 1950s and 60s, so we knew some of the same people.

‘I enjoy writing these life stories. It all started in a previous charity role, when I used to overhear a lot of interesting conversations when we took people on bus trips. One day, I got talking to a lady and said, “you’ve had a lovely life, would you like me to write about it?” I’d never done anything like it before – in my business life I used to write complicated sales proposals – but I like writing and have an interest in people.

‘I’ve already written a few life stories for St Wilfrid’s patients. The length of the story books varies. Audrey’s was 25 pages, but I’ve also written one of 120 pages,’ Bill added.

Despite her initial reluctance, Audrey is now a big fan of the service. ‘I think having your life story written is a very good idea. I can’t always remember things so it’s good to have them written down. My granddaughters think it’s wonderful and both have a copy of the book. They like anything that concerns me. They thought I’d tell all, but I said you’re not going to find out my secrets!’

This service is available to anyone who has a connection to the hospice, which includes patients, carers, and the families of patients. If you do not have a connection to the hospice but live in our catchment area, we would also be interested to hear from you. Please contact Paul Wogan via email: community.volunteering@stwhospice.org or phone: 07784 238544 for more details.

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