Patient Stories - Heather and Martin

Newlyweds Heather and Martin met at a Bereavement Support Group at Keech Hospice Care. They share their uplifting journey, from the loss of their lifelong partners to finding a new beginning together.

Heather’s story:

If someone had told me that I was going to get married at 78 years old, I would not have believed them.

21 years ago, I was retired and decided to become a volunteer at Keech Hospice Care’s charity shop in Birdsfoot Lane, Luton and helped as a Keech ‘Hospice at Home’ volunteer in my spare time. I had been delighted to receive my 10-year badge for being a long term volunteer for Keech.

When my husband Mike was diagnosed with cancer my life was destined for a new course. I was unable to continue to support others at Keech and became a full-time carer for Mike at home. This was an incredibly difficult time for our family and I found that I needed help to cope with this. I was welcomed to the Carers Support Group at Keech where I met others in a similar situation and I could get extra support. When in December 2012 Mike’s condition deteriorated, he was admitted to the Adult In-Patient unit. I will never forget the day the ambulance brought Mike in, it was a Friday and he was asleep when we arrived. My daughter, son and I were able to stay with Mike every day as he received end-of-life care.

After one week with the team at Keech, Mike died on 15 December 2012. This was an incredibly important time for us to share together, my family and I will be forever grateful for those final moments together.

I’ll always remember. Every time we looked out there was a robin there. So, now when I see a robin it always reminds me of Mike’s time at Keech.

Everyone was so lovely, we could not have done it without them.

I continued to attend the Carers Support Group for a while. I found it was difficult when I had to move on, however I met with the team at Keech and was invited to join the Bereavement Support Group. You quickly got to know everyone, you cried together, talked, everyone was in same boat. No one knows what it’s like to lose a partner after so many years together, everyone’s different.

This is where I met Martin. I met Martin at the Bereavement Support Group, and literally felt like a teenager when he invited me out on our first date. When you lose a partner, you go home, shut the front door and you are all alone, so I felt lucky to have met someone who really understood what I had been through.

There really is no time limit to when you meet someone new. We sold our houses in 2014 and moved in together to a brand new house in Dunstable and slowly we got to know each other’s families. We both have a lot in common with grown up children – one daughter and one son each and two grandchildren. We had talked about getting married and on Valentine’s Day in 2023, Martin proposed and I accepted.

Martin’s story:

I met Heather at a Bereavement Support Group at Keech Hospice Care, 10 years ago.  I had started receiving support from Keech, while I was caring for my wife.  Gerry had battled MS since her 30’s and as her condition became progressively worse, she had to stop working in her floristry business and we needed a lot of support in our home, with carers coming three times a day. Gerry also went to the MS therapy centre in Bedford and tried many treatments, although they didn’t always help.

I continued to work but found myself needing extra assistance in 2005, when I was struggling with bladder cancer myself and receiving treatment. By Easter 2005, I had to stop working and Jason, from the adult care team at Keech was incredibly helpful, he stepped in to help me get the best care for Gerry. He met with us at our home, helped to assess our needs and supported us in getting NHS funding for her care.

It’s impossible to explain what it is like to watch your life-long partner decline day by day and I was exceptionally grateful for the respite I received at Keech during this time. I remember the relief of falling asleep after receiving a complementary therapy session with Roger, Keech’s complementary therapist.

Eventually, Gerry had to move to a care home and after some severe breathing difficulties, she died aged 68, in March 2013. I was coming to terms with being on my own and losing my life-long partner when I joined the Keech Bereavement Support Group. This is where I met Heather and the rest as they say, is history.

It was after a few months of attending the Bereavement Support Group that I invited Heather to join me for a walk at Ashridge. I belonged to an amateur photographic group and was going to take some pictures of the bluebells. Whilst we were there, we climbed the tower at Ashridge, Heather’s reflector light glasses did not adjust to the light on the way back down and Heather tripped coming down the stairs…she literally fell at my feet.

I remember once a month Heather would book a table at a local restaurant and the 10 members of our Bereavement Support Group would go out to dinner together. We had all come on a similar journey together.  Some of the members of our group are sadly no longer with us but others like Heather and myself have found new partners.

10 years after we met at Keech on Valentine’s Day in February 2023, I went down on one knee and asked Heather to marry me. Heather asked if she needed to call a paramedic to get me up but fortunately, she said yes!

The Big Day

We were blessed to have had a beautiful wedding day on Friday 1 September at the Mercure Hotel in Daventry. We wanted to create a colourful, special celebration and many of our family met for the first time at the wedding.

We asked our guests to make a donation to Keech Hospice Care in lieu of presents. My daughter-in-law with help from my granddaughter, Chloe made a beautiful box for anyone that wanted to contribute. “If it wasn’t for Keech Hospice Care we wouldn’t be together and we are grateful for that” Martin jokes “I tried to join the French foreign legion instead but I was too old”!

We wish there were more places like Keech Hospice Care to access help. We have friends and family who have had no support whatsoever with their bereavements.

We were part of the Keech Hospice Care community before and after our partners died and we always tell everyone what amazing support we had – we wouldn’t be where we are without it.