Gordon White explains the very personal reason why he donates money to pay for a Christmas tree and decorations at the Rowans Hospice every year
My dad had non-aggressive prostate cancer for 20 years. Then on Christmas Eve 2015 he was diagnosed with leukaemia and given about seven weeks to live. His birthday was Boxing Day.
He was going strong until the end. Then he suddenly stopped eating, wasn’t drinking a great deal and was finding it difficult sleeping. Rapidly he looked like a really old man.
It was then, the end of July 2016, that my dad came into the Rowans. He died on August 3.
Thankfully we were with him when he died, because whoever was on duty that night realised. They phoned us to say they didn’t think that he would last the night. So my brother, his wife Helen, my mum and I rushed up to see him.
We spent about an hour or so with him. He only had a sheet over him, so you could see him breathing and the breath was getting shallower and shallower. Then the sheets stopped moving whilst my mum sat next to him, holding his hand.
Mum was still and didn’t appear to notice he had died. I stepped outside and said to the nurse: ‘I think he has gone’.
The nurses asked me what I wanted to do. I said to give my mum another 10 minutes. I went back in and sat with my mum. When the nurse came in she said: ‘Right, I am just going to do some observations and checks.’
Then she gently caught my mum’s gaze and said: ‘So sorry, but he has gone.’
He died with such dignity and respect. It’s brilliant he was at the Rowans, the place is so peaceful, calm, relaxed. Everyone is helpful.
My parents had always donated to the Rowans, since the 1980s, because it is a local charity. After experiencing the quality of care there, I also wanted to help and provide a fitting tribute to my dad.
As I mentioned, my dad’s birthday was on Boxing Day. He used to tell us that as a kid he only ever got one present. However he loved Christmas and when we were children he would always make it special for me and my brothers, even though we didn’t have a lot of money.
One Christmas was really tough. The gas and electricity were cut off, as we couldn’t pay. So my dad sent me out to find wood, which he used to make a fire and cooked our Christmas dinner over it in a frying pan. It was a brilliant Christmas, thanks to dad.
I want to make sure we celebrate the memory of his life at Christmas. That is why as long as I am alive I will donate a Christmas tree every year to the Rowans as fitting tribute to my dad and the brilliant care that he received.’
Rowans Hospice House Manager Tanya Wears said: ‘We are so grateful to Gordon’s generous donation. The housekeeping team and floral volunteers always do our best to make sure that we decorate the whole of the hospice and the Living Well Centre, to spread as much festive cheer for visitors, patients, staff and volunteers.
‘This is only possible thanks to the beautiful trees donated each year by the Southwick estate and by Gordon, whose financial donation has also made sure we have enough decorations to help Christmas sparkle!’