Close to You: Jac CallandPublished on: 10/12/2020
Late on, on Saturday 7th December, 2019, Jacqueline Calland, (known as Jac to all her friends) sadly passed away at Wirral Hospice St John’s.
It was the night before the hospice’s annual ‘Light up a Life’ lights switch-on service and Jac’s daughters, Lisa and Clare, feeling a strong bond for where their mum had been cared for in the previous couple of weeks, decided to attend the service in memory of, and as a tribute to, her.
“Mum loved Christmas, she looked forward to it, in fact everything to do with it, she would watch seasonal films all year round if she could. We’d only said goodbye to her hours earlier but it felt so right to be there among many people with their own memories and, the lights were just beautiful. It helped us all so much knowing her light was shining there.”
Lisa and Clare resolved that they would always support Light up a Life but, like all of us, they couldn’t have foreseen that COVID 19 would lead the hospice to make a really difficult decision, to cancel the switch-on service in 2020*.
However, through the bereavement counselling they have been able to receive, continuing by phone since February with our bereavement services coordinator, Stella, they have volunteered to speak on the virtual lights switch on service the hospice is producing for people to view online from 6pm on Sunday 6th December, about the care and support their mum received and the special place the hospice has in their hearts.
We asked Lisa and Clare to tell us a little bit more about mum, Jac. Their love and complete admiration for how she had conquered her own challenges in early life to become a loving mum and doting Grandma came shining through.
“Mum was born and brought up in Glasgow until aged 12 when the family moved down to Wirral. Her older brother, our uncle Robert, had a nasty accident while working here and needed to be taken care of.
It’s fair to say that mum had a turbulent childhood. Her mum and dad lived, what would nowadays be termed, ‘chaotic’ lives and so very often she would have to fend for herself.
We are her four children, Lisa, Clare, Catherine and Andrew and we brought her the 15 grandchildren who became her absolute life. Every day she would say how blessed she was to have them and kept their photo at the foot of her bed all the time she was in the hospice.
She’d worked hard, mainly as a single mum, as a carer, barmaid and childminder. Despite her own adverse circumstances in her early days she still cared for her own mum and dad when they became poorly in later life. Our sister Catherine has autism and mum cared for her too.
Along with Christmas she loved lots of things, songs by The Carpenters, the ‘Keeping Faith’ soundtrack from the popular BBC series, she was fascinated by ‘The Radfords’ family who had their own TV programme about their large family, she also sang in the Pop Vox choir with Lisa and granddaughter Ellee (sponsored by LIPA), enjoyed holidays with her friend Cathy and our families, eating out, cinema and she absolutely ‘rocked’ a bit of leopard print!
We knew her as a proud, glamorous and positive person who wouldn’t be seen without her ‘lippy’ on!
Gardening became a joy for her and the family have recently bought a tree to plant in mum’s honour.
Somebody else told us that she would often go out to the Pound Bakery and spend £20 or so and then go and hand out food and hot drinks to homeless people. When we asked why she hadn’t told us, she just said “Well, why would I tell you or anyone really? It’s just something I like to do.”
Mum was straight talking and everyone loved that about her. When we think back we know we got our independence and ability to cope with life’s problems from her.
In 2004 Mum was diagnosed with neurological dystonia which presented as involuntary muscle spasms in her face, head and neck). Quarterly injections of botox gave some relief but by 2012 the condition had worsened so a full body scan was ordered to check for other causes. After discovering a large cyst an operation to remove it also uncovered lesions associated with peritoneal cancer.
Looking back now, and although it was devastating at the time, it meant with treatment, (Mum combined the professional medical treatments with some alternative therapies), she felt as well as she possibly could for as long as possible.
Complications meant that she had a tumour removed in 2016 and thereafter, having lived with and overcome various challenges, a bilateral stroke while in hospital in September 2019 left her blinded. She was gravely ill.
So it was that, on the recommendation of Dr Richard (Latten, a hospice consultant), she was referred to Wirral Hospice St John’s on 26th November 2019.”
The sisters remember that almost as soon as she arrived on the inpatients ward her whole demeanour changed.
“Mum had been anxious and irritated but very quickly she was calm and relaxed. The hospice was a safe, comfortable and relaxing environment where mum’s best interests were the first priority. We felt the communication was first class and ‘hands on’ caring was taken out of our hands so that we could just be with our mum again.”
Since Jac passed away the sisters have described Stella’s counselling as being a rock for them, if anything bringing them even closer as a family, and has helped Clare appreciate even more the work she does as a nurse at Clatterbridge supporting people with eating disorders.
The younger grandchildren have a ‘Grandma Bear’ which they take everywhere with them and they all take comfort in ‘seeing grandma’ in rainbows and white feathers from time to time.
Our hospice colleague, Jamie-Leigh, had met with Lisa and Clare to hear their story and she recounts that throughout the conversation a little Red Robin was bobbing around the whole time. Lisa and Clare had said that they felt it was their mum keeping an eye on them.
Reminds me a little of the lyrics from ‘Close to You’ by The Carpenters,
“Why do birds suddenly appear
Every time you are near,
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you…”
She is, Lisa and Clare, she really is!
NB: *(Due to the COVID-19 restrictions and to keep everyone safe, the hospice has made the difficult decision to cancel the annual outdoor Light up a Life switch-on service for this year.
The hospice is instead endeavouring to reach out to even more families across Wirral with a pre-recorded film of the lights switch on service. This will be available to view from the comfort of people’s own homes, via the hospice’s website, from 6pm on Sunday 6th December.
The short film will capture the spirit of the lights switch-on, interspersed with carols from a socially-distanced hospice choir featuring locally renowned singer, Sarah Mullis. It will also contain the recollections of people, like Lisa and Clare, whose families have experienced the hospice’s dedicated care as well as heartfelt thoughts and readings from the hospice team, including some wonderful volunteers.
More details can be found at www.wirralhospice.org/lightupalife