"It's all about them"
Helen had a remarkable bond with her two grandchildren. For her, it was all about them. And they will always remember a special surprise party they shared with her one afternoon after school.
Helen led a big life. A beautician and hairdresser, she worked on film sets, survived Cyclone Tracy, learned to fly a plane and loved an adventure. She adored her husband David, daughter Brianne, and had a very special bond with her young grandchildren Oscar and Sophie.
In the Hospice on Melbourne Cup Day, she got right into the spirit of the race day wearing her fascinator and sipping champagne. That afternoon she told us:
“My stay in the Hospice really is as good as it can possibly be. The nursing care is absolutely amazing – nothing is too much trouble. Everyone who comes through my door – cleaning staff, volunteers, nurses, complementary therapists – everyone here just wants to make my day better.”
Thanks to our donors, Helen enjoyed pedicures and leg massages with the Hospice’s beauty therapist, Rose. And told us how she loved her time with the Biography Service, sharing stories and reflections from her incredible life. Brianne and her family will always treasure Helen’s special book.
When Helen started to lose interest in food, we asked David whether Helen had a favourite meal that might entice her to eat.
We contacted a local restaurant, whose chef made Helen’s favourite dish of salmon with dill and caper butter. It was our donors that were behind this surprise date lunch we arranged for Helen and David.
Helen told us: “When the food was wheeled in on a beautifully-presented trolley with a bottle of wine and flowers, I couldn’t believe it. It was so thoughtful – and the nicest piece of fish I had ever eaten. I ate it all!”
But what mattered most to Helen was to spend time with her young grandchildren, Oscar and Sophie. In the Hospice, she created some beautiful birthday plates with Fra Angelico – for Oscar and Sophie to keep forever.
Brianne knew that Helen had a very special relationship with Oscar and Sophie: “She just ‘got’ them – their bond was really amazing”.
Helen agreed. “My grandkids mean everything to me. They are such a joy. When they come to see me in the Hospice after school, I always like to have a surprise food treat for them. They expect it – they’re always starving!”
Helen remembered being asked if she would like to have a surprise afternoon tea party for her grandchildren.
“I loved the idea of the surprise – and that something was being done for them that they would think was fantastic.”
“When Sophie and Oscar arrived to see me after school the next day, Brianne was with me. The kids had been told there would be no food surprises that day – so they were a little miffed.”
“I said, ‘Let’s go for a walk’, and we all walked to the Hospice Family Lounge. When we opened the door, the look of surprise on their faces was fantastic. They kept saying, “Is this for us? Is this all especially for US?”
It was a true party room. The volunteers had decorated the room with balloons and garlands of photos from Frozen and Harry Potter (Sophie’s & Oscar’s favourite movies).
There was lemonade, chocolate crackles, fairy bread, rainbow jelly cups, honey joys, cupcakes and chips – and a lovely bottle of wine for the adults.
Helen said: “It was incredible. What meant so much to me was that it was a surprise for the kids. That was the best part. Seeing the joy in their faces. What I love is that Sophie and Oscar will never forget that tea party – they will always remember spending time with me at a party that was all about THEM.”
“In the Hospice, everyone goes above and beyond. You did on that day, and on so many other days. You’ve made so many amazing moments happen for me and my family.”
“I will never forget those moments.”
Helen went home for a couple of weeks but came back to the Hospice when she couldn’t be looked after at home anymore.
Brianne told us: “The second time Mum came to the Hospice was when I really saw the amazing care first-hand. The first time she was in there, she was still very independent, so I didn’t deal as much with the nurses. But when she came back the second time, it was very different.”
“One night I stayed with Mum and I remember wandering out of the room about 4 am. There was a lovely nurse who saw me, and said in the warmest way, ‘what can I do for you Brianne?’. It was like I was being cared for as well. We had a hot chocolate together in the Family Kitchen and just chatted. It was so nice.”
“I felt seen. As much as it was a crappy, terrible time – everyone at Mary Potter just made it better, right up to the end. I’m so grateful.”