The story of Ron Ham and his cat Chloe has been presented by North Devon Hospice to highlight Dying Matters Awareness Week (May 8-12).

A dying hospice patient has spoken of his joy at being reunited with his beloved cat just days before he passed away.

At the request of his family, North Devon Hospice has released Ron Ham’s story to highlight Dying Matters Awareness Week, which begins tomorrow (Monday).

Ron, 75 and from Whiddon Valley in Barnstaple, was being cared for at the hospice Bedded Unit while in the final stages of terminal cancer and he died on Thursday surrounded by his family.

As part of the awareness week, the hospice is keen to highlight the ways it supports people towards the end of their life, making it as comfortable and meaningful as possible.

During his stay at the hospice, Ron’s daughter Karen and his grandchildren were able to bring in his cat Chloe, which brought him a great deal of joy.

Speaking a week before passing away, he said: “I was an engineer during my working life, but my free time was spent with a big passion for my family, golf and animals – particularly my daughter’s cat called Chloe.

“My daughter and grandchildren only live two doors down from me, so Chloe spends more time with me than she does with them.

“We have a very special bond. It’s been lovely to have Chloe visit me at the hospice. She just snuggled up to me for a few hours and fell asleep – it really lifted my spirits.”

Ron was diagnosed with lung cancer, which spread to his bones and spinal cord. Since his diagnosis, he received support not only in the hospice’s Bedded Unit but also from the Hospice to Home team.

He added: “I’m very unsteady on my feet. I can’t stand up and walk around because I might fall over. It was great being cared for at home as this allowed me to do so much more.”

After having a further fall at home, he was brought to stay at the hospice and said: “The team have been absolutely brilliant and they’ve really looked after me so well – I can’t fault them at all. I couldn’t have come to a better place with my illness. The staff are simply lovely and it’s a wonderful place. It’s like a home from home.”

Dying Matters Awareness Week is a nationwide campaign to highlight the importance of talking about dying, death and bereavement.

Hospice chief executive Stephen Roberts said: “The final years, months and days of our lives are just as important as the first.

“So as a society we should be comfortable talking about the end of life and how we would like to approach it, as easily as we talk about birth.

“Here at North Devon Hospice our philosophy is not so much about putting days into life, but about life into our days.

“Ron’s tale is so touching, and I am so glad we were able to bring so much joy into his final days by something as simple as having his cat come and visit.

“But we also helped support Ron and his family for a long time before that. Hospice care is not just about the final few days, but about the whole journey.

“This is just one example of how dying well really does matter, so our message to the local community is to try and talk about it more.”

* Several events are being held in North Devon as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week, including pop-up Death Cafes at The Plough in Torrington on Tuesday and North Devon District Hospital on Wednesday