Head’s backing for hospice in dad’s memory

Tim Cross
Tim Cross

A headteacher who lost his father to cancer has been influential in giving the support of his school to St John’s Hospice.

Tim Cross, who has been head at Bolton-le-Sands Primary School for 13 years, has given the Lancaster hospice his full backing since his father Eric died there at the age of 80 in November 2011.

“He had been poorly with a range of things for a number of years, which began with bladder cancer,” Mr Cross said.

“He had been in and out of the Royal Lancaster Infirmary a lot and it became clear that he was becoming increasingly poorly. We had some conversations with the nurses about the type of care dad wanted.

“We knew he wanted to come home but he was eventually admitted to the hospice a few weeks before he died.

“He was only in there for a relatively short time, but it was a real breath of fresh air.

“It was a bright and cheerful place with happy and welcoming staff, and dad immediately felt more peaceful.”

Mr Cross, who lives in Bare, said the hospice provided a great source of comfort to he, his sister Jane and their mother Mary, particularly when seeking information about his father’s illness and in the days immediately after his death.

“Things like the flexibility around visiting and the care of visitors were great,” Mr Cross said. “The generosity of support we found to be quite overwhelming really, and the consultants and staff that cared for him were fantastic. We were given good explanations about what was going on. Dad died peacefully in the hospice, and the support given to us was fantastic; the cups of tea, the hugs and the conversation. The support made available afterwards was fantastic, particularly for my mum.

“It really was a relief to her; it provided her with a place of emotional stability and comfort and if you asked a straightforward question you got a straightforward answer.

“They are real experts in end of life care and that was greatly appreciated. The facility and the support was just fantastic – they are very good at helping with that grieving process.

“I think for my mum it is a very special place and we look to continue to support them through various events.”

Mr Cross has since been instrumental in supporting the work of the hospice, including setting up an informal partnership with his school.

“Since dad’s death our family’s and the school’s connection with the hospice has blossomed in a number of ways,” Mr Cross said.

“As a family we are aware of the work they do there. I don’t think you realise until you have that personal experience quite what they do.”

Mr Cross’s 14-year-old son Matthew, a pupil at Ripley St Thomas CE Academy, took part in the Great Manchester Run at the age of 12, raising £450 for the hospice.

And in summer 2012 Mr Cross took about 40 Year 6 children to the hospice to learn alongside the patients and staff. They took part in quizzes, singing at an Olympics event in the day centre.

“I have never been as proud of the children as then,” Mr Cross said. “They were so engaged with everyone.

“It wasn’t about the fundraising for the hospice; they just wanted the children to come together at the hospice.

“But the children wanted to raise money, and so they did a fun run in pyjamas and raised about £1,000. It was fantastic to be able to give that money back. For me, the relationship with the hospice has personally continued, and I have been asked to give a talk about my family’s experience.

“It’s great to be able to give back to a place that has helped my family so much.”