Families can remember their loved ones and celebrate the lives they lived at a special St Giles Hospice memorial garden this spring.

Relatives and friends are being invited to dedicate a unique Celebrate Lives Lived orange Gerbera peg, which is personalised with the name of their loved one, in return for a donation which will help to fund the work of St Giles supporting patients living with a terminal illness.

The Gerbera pegs will then be placed in one of the beautiful memorial gardens created at the hospice sites in Whittington and Sutton Coldfield.

Gavin and Angela Farley with Gavin’s mum Sheila Watson

For 2021, St Giles has also set up a special virtual garden display for people who are self-isolating or who do not wish to visit in person, with the name of your loved one displayed next to an orange Gerbera in an online memorial display which can be viewed at any time.

The Whittington and Sutton Coldfield gardens will create a colourful display of Gerbera pegs dedicated to the memory of loved ones, whether they have been cared for at St Giles Hospice or not, which will then be open to visitors throughout May, following the current Government COVID-19 guidelines.

Chloe Herbert, Head of Fundraising at St Giles Hospice, said: “Celebrate Lives Lived offers a special way to remember your loved ones each spring and everyone is welcome to join us as we commemorate those we have lost.

“The orange Gerbera represents ‘sunshine of life’, which makes it a beautiful, fitting tribute to the memory of your loved one.

“Your Gerbera peg will be placed in the Celebrate Lives Lived garden of your choice throughout May, creating a wonderful display of celebration and remembrance in the beautiful display of Gerberas. You can come along to visit the garden in a safe and socially-distanced visit and at the end of the month you can take the Gerbera home as a special keepsake or to plant in your own garden.

“By taking part in Celebrate Lives Lived you are also helping to fund the vital support St Giles Hospice offers to local families. We need to raise £850,000 each month to pay for our services and because we’ve had to close our shops and cancel fundraising events during the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve never needed your help more than we need it today.”

Lichfield police officer Gavin Farley (52) is supporting Celebrate Lives Lived this year in memory of his mother Sheila Watson, who died at St Giles Hospice last June (2020) at the age of 74.

Sheila, from Sutton Coldfield, who had leukaemia, was admitted to the hospice in January 2020 just weeks after her husband Jim, who had dementia, passed away on Christmas Day.

Gavin said: “When she first arrived it was a difficult time because Mom was grieving for my stepdad and wanted to go to his funeral, but she wasn’t well enough to go.

“But the staff did everything they could to help. I went to the funeral and filmed it all and they set up a screen in the chapel and people came back to St Giles rather than going to a wake and we replayed it there for Mom and did another service for her.

“Obviously it was a very sad occasion, but Mom was absolutely beaming – she was so glad that she was able to see the funeral after all and that her friends could be with her. It was so special because she knew that she probably wouldn’t see many of them again.

Gavin added that although most people see going into a hospice as marking the end of life, for his mother St Giles was the beginning of a new phase of her life. “Despite her illness she enjoyed being there and made so many new friends,” he said. “It wasn’t just a place of sadness, it was a place of joy as well.

“Everyone is so caring and nothing is too much trouble. To mark VE Day, the hospice held its own celebrations and the staff did my mum’s hair and makeup, which she really appreciated. Plus, when they found out that Monsters Inc. was her favourite film, they set it up on a laptop so that she could watch it in her room. It’s these little things that made such a massive difference.

“The staff at St Giles really went above and beyond what they had to do for their jobs – they were carers but became friends to us all, because they were as thoughtful and supportive to the families just as much as their patients.

“We’ll definitely be supporting Celebrate Lives Lived this year, not only to thank St Giles for the way they looked after my mum, but as a way of celebrating her life and memory too. Despite the sadness of her passing, St Giles has so many good memories for us.”

To dedicate your Celebrate Lives Lived Gerbera, visit www.stgileshospice.com/celebrateliveslived or call 01543 432538. The closing date for Celebrate Lives Lived dedications is midday on Friday 16th April.