Continuing the 12 Days of Christmas campaign highlighting the work of East Lancashire Hospice, today we share the personal experience of a key member of the hospice team

Head of Inpatients, Gaynor Barlow, has experienced the work that the East Lancashire Hospice can do both from a professional and personal perspective.

Her dad Brian and second mum Mary, were married for 35 years and between them had six children, nine grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

They met when Brian was working at the Bury Times and Mary, who was a very glamorous lady, was a technician in the Hairdressing department at Bury College.

When Mary caught Brian’s eye, he made sure he timed finishing work each day with Mary so he could ask her out. Gaynor recalls after they had dated for a couple of years, her father woke her in the night to ask how she would feel about him marrying her and they never looked back!

Mary and Brian had met many of Gaynor’s colleagues at the hospice and would often come to events in the garden as well as have lunch in Café Retreat. Brian had spoken about volunteering at the hospice at some point.

When the hospice was refurbished Gaynor was able to give them a sneak peek and Mary had said she felt it was beautiful, much like a hotel and asked Gaynor, should she ever need to, if she could come into the hospice.

In 2019, Mary was given a cancer diagnosis whilst already living with dementia which was rapidly advancing, during which time Brian was doing his best to care for her at home.

In March 2020, Brian became ill and when he was admitted to hospital, Gaynor initially stepped in to care for Mary at home, but then had to make the decision to transfer Mary to a care home for respite whilst she continued to work full time.

In August 2020, Gaynor’s dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and a week after being discharged from hospital, Gaynor moved into the family home to care for him. Sadly he passed away at home just 10 days later.

Visiting Mary in the care home was difficult as it was limited both in frequency and duration, with physical contact kept to a minimum due to the pandemic and extended family members were unable to see Mary at all.

When Gaynor was contacted by a doctor who advised that Mary was in her last weeks of life, Gaynor spoke to colleagues at East Lancashire Hospice who were able to support the family by admitting Mary to the Inpatient Unit. Gaynor recalls how when Mary arrived at the hospice, she said ‘I knew you’d come and get me’.

Gaynor said that Mary made a big impact on her colleagues, many of whom called her ‘a little firecracker!’ and although Head of the Inpatient Unit, Gaynor was given the time and the space to be Mary’s daughter whilst her colleagues took the lead on caring for Mary.

Gaynor filled her room with pictures of Brian and their family and played music from her favourite artist Lionel Richie.

Gaynor described how Mary being cared for on the Inpatient Unit, made her to appreciate the care the hospice is able to offer more than ever before and enabled her to see it from the family’s perspective.

Gaynor said: “Mary’s dementia was challenging, however nothing was too much trouble for my colleagues.

“When Mary was in her last hour of life, I was with her in a cuddle bed listening to Lionel Richie. When the song I’m on My Way came on, said to her: ‘It’s time to let go Mary.Go and find dad, he will be waiting for you’’.”

During the time that Mary spent at the hospice, family members were able to visit and say their goodbyes which meant a huge amount to them all.

If you would like to support East Lancashire Hospice this Christmas by making a donation, you can do so by visiting or by calling the Fundraising Team on 01254 287014