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Margaret Duffell in the hospice gardens.

Margaret Duffell

14 June 2023

In 2017 Brian Duffell spent his final days in the hospice and his wife Margaret and the rest of the family were blown away by the care, support and friendliness they were shown by all the Eden Valley Hospice team. Brian’s stay in the hospice allowed Margaret, family and friends to make memories that will last for the rest of their lives. 

This is Margaret’s story: 

In Margaret Duffell’s eyes, Eden Valley Hospice was responsible for giving her family the greatest gift possible when her husband Brian was dying… time.

Brian died at the hospice in December 2017 and left behind an incredible legacy following his decades of service to Armstrong Watson accountants, his many years playing in a band and his football coaching. But it was Brian’s mantra of “the best thing you can give anyone is your time” which his family were incredibly thankful for in the last few days of his life, as this way of living his life had come full circle in the hospice.

“That was Brian’s expression and that’s what we got, it came true for me,” Margaret said.

Brian and Margaret’s story begins back in 1961 while they were both working at the tax office. They hit it off at a Christmas party – at which Brian was both playing in a dance band with his dad and organising the event – and started going out. Two-and-a-half years later they were married and had two children – Mark and Anita.

In the following years Brian moved on to work at Armstrong Watson as Tax Manager – a job he loved – continued to play in dance bands and coaching aspiring footballers in Carlisle, even training a young Steve Harkness who went on to play for Liverpool FC in the 1990s.

Despite being a leader at the accountancy firm and being busy with musical and sporting commitments, Brian was a committed family man and loved spending time with his children and five grandchildren.

It was in December of 2017 that Brian came into the hospice following a cancer diagnosis earlier that year, having already lived with Alzheimer’s for the two years beforehand. Brian’s referral to the hospice came following home visits from Macmillan Cancer Support and Hospice at Home with professionals noticing he’d deteriorated in quite a short space of time.

It was then that they told Margaret they’d liaised with Eden Valley Hospice and had secured him a bed. Margaret praised the work of all those involved with transferring Brian’s care, thanking them for making a difficult situation easier with their support.

His giving of time wasn’t the only thing which came full circle for Brian at the hospice. He’d grown up in the Harraby area of Carlisle and was assigned the ‘Harraby’ room in the adult ward. 

Margaret says: “Once we got in, you didn’t really have to think, everything was done for you. He was looked after, I didn’t have to do anything, I was able to just be his wife.

“I didn’t have the worry, I was able to just sit with him and be with him, I didn’t have to worry about everything else. They took the responsibility off me, so I could just sit with him, and that’s what you want. They did absolutely everything, nothing was every any bother.

“When he came in here, we couldn’t speak highly enough of the staff, they really were absolutely fabulous. They just couldn’t do enough for you. They said to us because they knew it was Nicky’s 18th birthday (Brian’s grandson) if you want to do something here you can, they said they’ve had all sorts of things here, they were really, really lovely and nothing was too much trouble. 

“I remember, we were just sitting there, we had the television on low and they came in and said we didn’t have to have it on low, that we should treat this like our home and do what we liked. Nicky brought his presents here and opened them, we brought a cake up on the Sunday and did as much as we could with him.”

It was important for the family not to stop celebrations for Nicky’s birthday, when it would’ve been very understandable to do so.

“We said your granddad wouldn’t have wanted that,” Margaret adds.

“Everything would have to be as it was planned because he would’ve been furious if we’d cancelled it. Everyone had a good time at his party, and I went for a bit, it was difficult, but I did it for Nicky. Brian wouldn’t have wanted it spoiled.”

Although the situation was extremely tough, Margaret cannot speak highly enough of the care the hospice provided to Brian and his family.

“Being in the hospice made a hard time easy,” adds Margaret.

“They came in and just made sure we were constantly OK. When other family members all went to get ready for the party (Nicky’s 18th) on the Saturday night one of the nurses came in and brought me something little to eat, she said ‘you’ll need it because you’re going out’ and she didn’t have to do that.

“They left me on my own if I wanted to be but they would constantly pop in to make sure I was OK. You wouldn’t get that in a hospital, I know the staff there can’t, but the staff here have such a lovely way with them, so caring, so thoughtful. It’s a very special place.

“It gave us the time we probably wouldn’t have got anywhere else. Apart from going out for a couple of hours and on the Sunday, I was in here all the time. So I knew that he was OK.”

Brian died after five days in the hospice, but his memory lives on for all those who knew him. Everybody remembers the “lovely man” he was and Margaret was comforted by the collection of cards and comments received after he passed away.

Margaret is keen to spread the message Eden Valley Hospice and how vital it is that the charity remains at the heart of the community for many years to come.

“It gives people the chance like I did and get that special time with them that you might not get any other time, I just think we need these sort of places,” she adds.

“Without the hospice we wouldn’t have the memories, because we could sit and talk about all sorts of things, whereas elsewhere you wouldn’t have had that. It went full circle because he gave everyone his time. Brian would’ve done anything for anybody, he was known for that.”