St Giles Hospice is inviting people to light up a life and remember loved ones who are no longer with us this Christmas.

Coronavirus safety measures mean that the festive services – usually held at churches across the region each year – will not be able to take place in 2020. But the hospice will instead be offering supporters the opportunity to dedicate a light on their virtual Christmas tree, to write a message to remember family, friends and colleagues in the Book of Memories and display a special Light up a Life decoration at home.

An online version of the Book of Memories will be made available to read and download from the hospice website this Christmas, and the physical books will be put on display to read at selected sites throughout December.

Elinor Eustace, Director of Fundraising at St Giles Hospice, said: “Christmas can be an emotional time of year for people who are experiencing the loss of a loved one – whether they are recently or long-term bereaved – and this year has been exceptionally difficult given the challenges people have faced due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Some people may not have been able to be with their loved one at the end or had the opportunity to hold or attend a funeral for them, which will only have added to their sense of loss.

“While Light up a Life will of course be different this year it will continue to offer a poignant way to remember those loved ones who are no longer with us.

“You’ll receive your own keepsake Light up a Life card, featuring the name of your loved one and personal dedication, to display in your home. You will also receive a Light up a Life tree decoration to personalise with the name of your loved one and hang on your Christmas tree.”

Elinor added that Light up a Life also helps St Giles to raise the £850,000 it needs each month to fund its care services for patients and their families living with a terminal illness. These funds are more important than ever this year as the hospice has been badly hit by the temporary closure of its charity shops for several months during the COVID-19 lockdown and the cancellation of fundraising events throughout 2020.

Denise Walker, aged 64, has supported St Giles since her partner, Peter Badger, died from cancer in 2018. Peter was cared for at St Giles for three days before he died and Denise took part in Light up a Life for the first time the following Christmas.

She said: “Peter went to St Giles for care and support and the whole team there were fantastic – they made him so comfortable. As soon as we reached St Giles the staff took over – it was such a relief to know he was in good hands. He had such personal, fantastic care.

“In those last days you really cherish every moment you have with your loved one, whether it’s a good moment or a bad moment. We had our privacy and were all with him and talking to him until he died, and I’ll never forget it for as long as I live.”

“I call the staff at St Giles ‘God’s angels’ – they are fantastic, like God’s helpers at work. No matter how the family is affected they are so calm, professional, honest and compassionate.

“Light up a Life is a wonderful way for me to say thank you to St Giles for giving Peter the care that he needed, as well as supporting me too. It’s a very special event and I will support it every year.”

Elinor added: “It’s very sad that we are not able to host our normal church services this year as they are special events which are much loved by everyone who takes part. But we’re delighted that we are still able to go ahead with Light up a Life in 2020 in virtual form, despite the Coronavirus.

“Thank you so much for your understanding, and we hope you’ll still join us to light up a life. We’ve never needed your support more than we need it today.”

People can register for Light Up a Life online at www.stgileshospice.com/lightupalife. The closing date for messages in the Book of Memories is 23.59pm on Thursday, 12th November, and you can dedicate a light on our virtual Christmas tree until 29th January, 2021.