You will get more out of it than you will put in
‘It’s a sanctuary for me. I just like it there. It gets me out, meeting people, and we have a laugh. I look forward to my afternoon there.’ This is how Bob describes the St Wilfrid’s Hospice Shop in Seaford, where he volunteers one afternoon each week.
Bob was introduced to the hospice last summer when his wife, Molly, sadly died there. ‘They were so, so kind,’ he says. ‘There was nothing they wouldn’t do for her, or me. If you’re going to die – and we’re all going to die – you couldn’t wish for a better place.’
Bob and Molly were married for 58 years, meeting as teenagers and building a life together, first in Beckenham in Kent and later in Alfriston and Seaford. ‘Everybody loved Molly,’ says Bob. ‘She was one of those people who lit up a room. I know it’s a cliché but she did. She was gentle, and she would smile, and she was always strong.’
The couple met on a night out in Beckenham, with Bob inviting himself to a party and ‘spending the whole night just sitting on the stairs with Molly chatting.’ The pair gelled and it wasn’t long before they were married. ‘We had a very very happy marriage,’ says Bob. ‘We had good times, and I miss her terribly.’
Molly first became ill in 2019, having an operation to remove a lump in her breast and receiving the all clear. Two years later the cancer was back, initially in her breast and then moving to her liver. ‘I think then we were both under the impression that she was going to get better – that it was treatable,’ continues Bob. ‘They sent us away saying “build your strength up so that we can give you chemo,” and now that I look back, that was never going to happen.
‘And then she became weak – very weak. One afternoon I was sitting at home with her and I said “Moll we need to get you some help,” so we went to the GP. He was brilliant – he got her into hospital that afternoon. But Molly was deteriorating, and she was referred to the hospice Inpatient Unit.
‘They were brilliant – the doctors, the care support workers who used to come in and turn Molly over, and clean her. I spent the last three weeks staying overnight with Molly and, in the middle of the night, they would come in and treat her. And when Molly died, I was with her – with our youngest son James – and I remember the nurse, she just held me. I’ll never forget that.’
‘And now I volunteer in the shop. I walked in there one day – I don’t know why – and there was a lady in there who said, “why don’t you come and volunteer here? Lots of us have lost somebody. We’re like a family, and you’d be welcome.” And that’s where it started. I now volunteer there one afternoon a week, I mend the donated watches, and I make Christmas trees out of driftwood that we sell in the shop.’
When asked what his favourite thing about volunteering in the shop is, Bob doesn’t hesitate: ‘The company. I’ve learned a lot from the other volunteers and have found new hobbies too.’
‘I would recommend to anybody that you join a shop as a volunteer. You will get more out of it than you will put in. And if you have lost somebody, then a lot of the people there will know what you are going through.’
St Wilfrid’s Hospice has nine shops in Eastbourne, Seaford, Hailsham, Herstmonceux, Heathfield and Uckfield, all of which raise money to keep hospice services running. Something Bob feels very strongly about: ‘I know that if the hospice wasn’t there for people, it would be much crueller, a much crueller end,’ he says.
If you’ve been inspired by Bob, you can find your local shop and see the latest volunteer opportunities on our shops page