Here at St Peter's we provide holistic care, which means we look after patients physically, practically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Ralph leads our Spiritual Care Team, a growing team of 15 volunteers who support patients and their loved ones through their journey with the Hospice.
"Defining Spiritual Care is different for everyone. Something my team and I do as soon as we meet someone is find out what 'spiritual' means to them, and what gives meaning to their life. That's our starting point. Whether faith plays a part or not, it doesn't matter. It's finding out what's most important to people.
"In years gone by Spiritual Care would've been very religion based, but that's not always the case anymore. It's up to the individual but often we'll focus more broadly on what might be next, or what's causing fear or worry. I remember one patient only wanting to talk about gardening in our meetings. After a few chats, I discovered that she had a rose garden that her mum had given her when she got married, and her emotions were coming from not ever seeing that again.
"For me and my team, it's an honour to have the opportunity to spend time with someone at the end of their life."
Ralph worked closely with a recent Hospice patient called Lee.
"Lee was phenomenal. From the get-go he engaged. It's my job to break down death and dying, approach it in the context that the person is comfortable with, and help them communicate how they're feeling. For Lee, this was around preparing his kids. He was doing everything he could make his kids know that their Dad loved them and wouldn't give up on them. We discovered that Lee was craving the simple things like doing the school run, and watching tv and cuddling up on the sofa together. I encouraged Lee to re-engage with that stuff. There was an amazing moment when I saw the weight lift off his shoulders, and I think that was because he realised that even though his life was being cut short, it was a huge success in terms of giving love, and being loved."
Mary, Lee's wife, also reflects on the time they had with Ralph. "Even though we're not religious, Lee absolutely loved the spiritual conversations they would have. Lee shared a lot with Ralph, he would come to our house, and they'd sit around the table and just talk. Lee valued his meetings with Ralph above anything else in the last few weeks of his life. The things he said gave Lee so much comfort. We couldn't always ease things for Lee, but Ralph could. He would say things like 'look for the light', and 'find the good things'. He reminded us that there are some beautiful moments even in the dark, like the beautiful people we met who helped us through this journey.
"Ralph made such a big impact that we used something he said as the closing line at Lee's funeral – 'what's the meaning of life? It's to love well and to be loved well'."Back to News