Remembering those we have lost

Chas staff on remembering day

CHAS staff on Remembring Day

An annual service to remember children at a Scottish hospice went ahead despite lockdown regulations 

11th June 2020 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Staff at a children’s hospice took the time this week to remember all those who have been lost too soon.

For Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS), Remembering Day at Rachel House in Kinross is an annual occasion which gives bereaved families from throughout the hospice’s 24 years of service the opportunity to gather and fondly remember their children.

The special event typically takes place in person, however current restrictions in place did not deter activities coordinator Alison Blair from rethinking the event and producing a virtual service late last month, involving the participation of her colleagues across the hospice.

As birds tweeted and wind rushed in the background of Rachel House’s glorious garden, the name of every child was read aloud by nursing, kitchen, maintenance and administrative staff in a poignant reflection.

Lead by Chaplain Amanda Reid, resident musician Rachel Drury was joined with musicians from Chamber Music Scotland to perform various songs. Parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties and uncles were present on the online platform. A poem was recited by CHAS chief executive Rami Okasha.

Alison Blair said: “It’s extremely important to us that we provide families this communal opportunity to remember their child with others who have walked with them. As we are all living in relative isolation right now, we knew this was going to be a particularly emotional day, when the absence of these children would be felt on a truly profound level. The current pandemic has put many obstacles in front of us, but we’re even more determined to reach the families we know. This is a powerful example of that.”

Samar Sheikh, a bereaved mother from Glasgow who has used both Robin and Rachel House over the years, said: “We thought that Remembering Day would be impossible! The service was lovely; it went some way to filling the gap that isolation due to coronavirus has forced upon us. I appreciate the time and effort Rachel House has taken to organise the virtual Remembering Day as not having anything at all would have been really hard to bear. Thanks to everyone involved in making it such a beautiful day.”

Kathy Huffman, from Coldstream, said: “We appreciated the opportunity to share in this experience with everyone at Rachel House, It was lovely to see some familiar faces and understandably some new ones as it has been a few years since our daughter Maggie passed away. Our older daughter Audrey, who has very fond memories of the time we spent at Rachel House, was very emotional at the start of the service and was excited to hear Maggie’s name read out along with all the other boys and girls. We can never thank the staff of Rachel House for the warmth they provided to us when we stayed. It is so comforting to know that they’re always there.”

Lynne Allen, of Fife, said: “We lost our son Ethan in 2012 and attended the remembering day in 2013. We remain so grateful to Rachel House but found it tough showing up in person. My husband and I both tuned in for the online service this year and would really like to do the same next time. We watched on, knowing that there were so many other bereaved families alongside us who carry this heartache every single day too. It was a shared experience we all understand.”

CHAS is the only charity in Scotland that provides hospice services for babies, children and young people with life-shortening conditions. The national charity offers palliative care and respite for the whole family via its two hospices, Rachel House in Kinross and Robin House in Balloch. The CHAS at Home service supports families in their own homes across the whole of Scotland and has teams working in communities and hospitals across the country.

Like many other charities left reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic, CHAS has had to dramatically transform the way in which it provides its increasingly important services. They have set up Scotland’s first ever virtual hospice to support children and families who are having to completely self-isolate.

The virtual hospice has now been operational for two months, offering families extensive support, whether it relates to clinical guidance, financial advice or bereavement support, by video and phone. CHAS family support teams are also providing an expanding range of interactive activities, art clubs, storytelling and conference calls to children and parents.

Within its physical hospices, advanced protective measures are in place to safeguard families. Those needing urgent physical care are welcomed at the hospice, where staff work tirelessly to provide children with the palliative assistance they need.