Published Friday 5th May 2023

As part of Dying Matters Awareness Week, we look at the role our Spiritual Care team plays at St Michael’s Hospice.

Our Spiritual Care Lead, Peter Spence (pictured), has helped reunite a family in an unconventional way.

I was asked to visit Cheryl, a patient on our IPU, who explained that eight years ago, whilst she was in hospital, her brother had died and through a myriad of complex family relationships, his ashes had been lost. Her request was: Can you help find my brother’s ashes?!

Equipped with only the address of a funeral director, but not their name, I set out in search of Cheryl’s missing brother. After a quick Google search of the address, I made contact. The initial search of their records produced a blank, but the staff member said they would talk to the owner later that day.

Twenty-four hours later I was contacted by the funeral directors to say that not only did they know the case, the long lost ashes were still with them and they would make arrangements to deliver them to me at St Michael’s.
This meant I could visit Cheryl’s home and deliver her brother’s ashes back to his family. Cheryl was understandably emotional but was so grateful to have ‘the family back together’. She told me it had made her year, adding nothing can top it.  

Is this Spiritual Care? In my opinion, yes. Absolutely. Cheryl is herself facing a life-limiting disease and for her it was crucial to restore her family by ensuring that her brother was laid to rest in the right place with his family. In getting involved in this we, in the Spiritual Care team helped Cheryl with an issue which enabled her to find closure with a vital relationship allowing her to feel truly fulfilled. In short, we helped a patient find meaning and connection as they face the prospect of their own mortality… the very essence of Spiritual Care.

The Spiritual Care team at St Michael’s is made up of two members of staff, Peter and Bev, and a growing number of volunteers.