Stories from the day hospice: Jackie

25 January 2013

 Illustration by Marianne Dear
[object Object]

Illustration by Marianne Dear

Throughout the summer of 2012, Chrissie Giles spent time at the day hospice at Princess Alice Hospice, Esher, running a creative writing group. In a series of posts accompanying our exhibition Death: A self-portrait, she reflects on her experiences there and showcases some of the writing produced by group members.

Jackie and I arrived at Princess Alice at around the same time. Softly spoken and thoughtful, she brought a sensitivity and calmness to the writing group. Her stories outlined the importance of the countryside and, in particular, horses in her life.

She didn’t like to be upset and tried hard to suppress any negative emotions she felt. In the Post-its exercise, where we each wrote down a word that we felt had been particularly pertinent to us over the last week, she was the only person to give two words: one she perceived as negative, and a positive one to balance. The positive word was ‘foal’, reflecting a new arrival in her family.

She said being part of the group had helped give her a bit of confidence about writing. “My head’s such a muddle,” she said. “This showed me that I can still get my thoughts down on paper.”

This piece is about her son. When she read it to the group – tearfully – many of us found ourselves welling up too. Jackie said that her family loved the poem, especially her mother, who read it aloud to everyone.

Untitled by Jackie

A huge hug is given, engulfed in love,
A family relationship.
My son,
The very light of my life.

Warm, familiar laugh that warms me through and through
Eddie Murphy’s double.
Country odours, animals and leather,
All is soft, natural browns, warm woolly jumpers
Mixed with stubbly cuddles from a hurried shave.
Never enough time.

Mobile phone – never stops!
No trouble, catch up with you later, sounds good to me.
Always on the go.
Craggy, weathered smile.
Works so hard, my boy.

You ready mum? Car’s outside
What first?
Bedding, duvet and pillows for car journey? Any.
Separate ones for the van?

Medication, water.
Wait til you see your garden,
Shrubs, trees are in bud waiting for you.
All’s good.
Weather’s on the up.

Listen to Chrissie read this piece:

Chrissie Giles is a Senior Editor at the Wellcome Trust. Death: A self-portraitis open until 24 February 2013. Find out more about Princess Alice Hospice at