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Carl and Cynthia Sherdly

Cynthia and Carl

4 July 2023

While Cynthia’s husband Carl was being cared for in Eden Valley Hospice, they found solace through their toughest of times in the beautiful hospice gardens – a memory so profound that Cynthia returned as a volunteer, supporting the charity for almost a decade. 

This is their story: 

Going through a divorce was a traumatic experience for Cynthia, as it would be for most people. But at the time what she didn’t realise was this turn of events, would lead her on to crossing paths with future husband and soulmate Carl. 

While her divorce was being attended to by a legal firm in Carlisle, Cynthia also had a house sale and flat purchase to sort out, so she was put in touch with another of the company’s solicitors. From a first conversation sat either side of Carl Sherdly’s desk in his office, the pair would go on to form a bond which would take them all over the world together and only ended when Carl died at Eden Valley Hospice. 

At their first meeting Carl told Cynthia about how he planned to travel to Hong Kong and Japan in the near future, a place he’d always wanted to go. Just a few months after first meeting, Cynthia, who’d not been on an aeroplane at this point in her life, joined Carl on his trip to Asia. Following their marriage in 1991 and subsequent years together, they travelled to Singapore, Thailand, Athens, New York to name a few and enjoyed many happy moments together. 

However, they also battled through some tough times when Carl was ill, which was on and off for around eight years. He was diagnosed melanoma, something that was picked up when he noticed a birthmark underneath his arm had changed. Initially he had an operation, followed by chemotherapy and then onto the trial of a new drug. All appeared well for a few years until he had a seizure and was sleeping all the time. 

In 2012 he was admitted into hospital in Newcastle and it was discovered that Carl’s cancer had returned. He was ready to be discharged from hospital and to come somewhere closer to home. 

“We had the choice of Carlisle hospital or the hospice,” Cynthia says.  

“We chose the hospice, but before then we didn’t know it was here or anything about it. He went into the hospice the first time around Easter in 2012 for respite, they got him eating again and he put weight on so everything seemed OK for a while.” 

Following this period, he had another course of chemotherapy and although he was on the same type as the first time he had it, this time it made Carl extremely ill, so he was not eating and being sick all the time. He returned to the hospice that summer to help him get his symptoms under control, which was success. 

“He was still on chemo afterwards and he was ill again, he started to talk in a foreign language which I didn’t understand of course,” Cynthia adds.  

“He was getting terrible headaches and sleeping all the time. I knew it had moved from what was a birthmark under the arm and it had gone into his brain. He came back into the hospice for a third time in November, he was very ill and would sleep all the time.” 

Carl died after a week’s stay in the hospice aged 59 with Cynthia by his side the whole time. 

“It is fantastic the work the hospice staff do, everyone is extremely caring,” Cynthia continues. 

“Your needs are fulfilled when you go into the hospice because they know exactly how to treat you, they’ve seen these before and they have time for you. 

“What a fantastic husband he was, and he always put me first. The last nine months he was ill, I never left his side, but I never him complain once. A doctor said to him once ‘what keeps you going?’, he said ‘she does’. 

As well as being a well-known solicitor, Carl, who was a partner at Butterworths, loved his rock music. 

“He wore suits by day, but the other side of him was that he loved rock music and leather jackets,” Cynthia, who worked in fashion for 25 years says. 

“At his funeral it was a toss-up between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, but I chose Bob Dylan because when we first met we both had the same album of his. I knew also at the funeral there would be some older clients there, so we went for the more subdued of the two. He was a very interesting man that’s what I loved about him.” 

When Carl was staying in the hospice, Cynthia would often take him out into the walled garden, which many of the patient rooms have direct access to. 

“The gardens were important to us, they were beautiful, I just think it’s lovely to see something green and growing alive to start things from beginning to end. 

“Just to get him outside and sit on a seat was wonderful, we did at times walk around the building, but he wasn’t always well enough for that.” 

While Cynthia admired the gardens, she realised that she’d never really saw anyone tending to them and thinking to herself that she would like to go back volunteer. As soon as she was able to, she started being one of the hospice’s much-loved gardeners, a role she’s done for nine years [at the time of writing]. 

“I do like gardening and I just thought I want to do that. When someone dies, you carry on, you’ve got to think about what you are going to do,” she adds. 

“Patients and people visiting often chat to us and say how lovely the gardens are. 

“It’s just a beautiful place to work, I have great memories in the gardens. We laugh a lot and it’s really fun. I’ve got a lot from it, I always say it’s my favourite day of the week… sometimes I come twice! It’s a happy place to work and there’s a big sense of satisfaction when I go home. There’s a massive sense of achievement and I feel that the rest of the week. I’m always planning in my head the job I’m going to do next.  

 “Every time I go into the walled garden, I think of Carl.”