Light Up a Life: Family will remember much-loved dad Peter Bray this Christmas
- Credit: Archant
The annual Light up a Life appeal has given local people the opportunity to come together in remembering someone they love in the build-up to Christmas - and this year the Bray family will be remembering a much-loved pillar of North Devon.
The funds raised from the appeal help both North Devon Hospice and Children’s Hospice South West care for those who are facing an incurable illness.
The Bray family from Barnstaple will be remembering Peter Bray this year, as they face their first Christmas without the much-loved father, grandfather and friend to so many.
Peter was cared for by North Devon Hospice in his final months, and his daughter Gail Bray says that the support the family received made all the difference during a difficult time.
She said: “I didn’t know much about the hospice before we needed it, but since experiencing the care ourselves I just think it is an amazing place.”
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Peter was a very well-known character across North Devon. “He knew everyone and everyone knew him!” said Gail.
“12 years ago, he had a heart attack and a triple bypass, but he recovered amazingly well. He walked everywhere to keep fit and was so independent.
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“That’s why it was such a surprise when he became ill exactly a year ago this week. He was struggling to breathe, and this led to a three-week stay in hospital.”
Peter was diagnosed with an advanced and aggressive lung cancer, but he was able to return home again, thanks to the support of the Hospice to Home team from North Devon Hospice.
“They were with us within an hour of dad arriving home from hospital,” Gail said.
“They introduced themselves and explained the care and support they could offer. We were surprised to learn that they could also do night sits, so I could get some proper rest. They were an absolute godsend.”
As Peter’s condition worsened, he was transferred to North Devon Hospice’s Bedded Unit, so his symptoms could be managed more closely.
“I couldn’t believe it when I arrived at the hospice. What a beautiful place,” said Gail.
“He had a huge room, with a balcony overlooking the garden. The hospice doctor explained that we could stay the night with dad and that they’d put a bed up for us. Anything we wanted was no trouble at all.”
Peter spent his final days at the hospice, passing away peacefully with his two children by his side.
Gail said: “Even then, we were allowed to stay as long as we needed, to hold his hand and just talk to him. It was so lovely and we really appreciated that time.”
The support offered by the hospice didn’t stop there either, said Gail: “Since dad died, both me and my brother Martin have had phone calls from the counselling team to make sure we’re okay. It’s a really lovely touch and it’s nice to know that support is there.”
Sadly, Peter died just one week before the first national lockdown, so his funeral was a far more muted affair than it would otherwise have been. Gail added: “He was such a well-known character. I know that if
we’d have been able to hold a normal funeral, the place would have been packed. As it was, we could only have 10 people, and because we were from different households we couldn’t even sit together.”
She said that approaching their first Christmas without Peter is tough: “It is hard to think of Christmas without him, but it makes me all-the-more grateful for having him home last Christmas.
“I know that we will spend the whole day talking about him and remembering him, just generally being thankful for the time we had together.”
If you would like to remember someone special this Christmas, and help North Devon Hospice care for other local families, you can make a donation to the Light Up a Life appeal in memory of a loved one.
Visit treeofremembrance.co.uk to dedicate a star on the hospice’s tree. You can also tune in to the Light Up a Life remembrance service, broadcast live at facebook.com/northdevonhospice/live, from 6pm on Friday, December 11. A service is being broadcast from the Children’s Hospice South West Facebook page at 7pm.