Claire’s unforgettable last Christmas with her mum

Claire Crawford’s mum Maura died on Christmas Day at the Marie Curie Hospice, Glasgow five years ago. Claire was only 16 at the time. 

Maura, Claire, and her dad at Claire's birthday party in 2007

When Claire’s mum, Maura, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, aged just 43, Claire felt as though her whole world had crumbled down. As an only child, she was very close to her mum.

“I liked doing silly girly things with Mum: going shopping in town and just being together, going to the pictures.

“Dad is a long distance lorry driver who has always had funny shifts and hours, so I was used to it being just my mum and me a lot of the time.”

The cancer diagnosis

Remembering that first cancer diagnosis in October 2009, Claire said she didn’t fully understand what was going on.

“That word cancer is associated with so many bad things. I was really upset and scared.”

Maura underwent a hysterectomy and chemotherapy. But despite being given the all clear, the cancer came back in the same place and Maura had to undergo further treatment. Then it returned for the third and final time in 2011.

And that was when Claire’s family were referred to the Marie Curie Hospice, Glasgow for on-going care and support.

Sleepovers, DVDs and pizza

Initially Claire didn’t like the idea of her mum going into the hospice, as she imagined it to be a “dark, depressing place where people went to die”.

However, she was very quickly reassured by her mum’s first stay there. It soon became a place where she could go for respite and pain relief for short periods of time.

“When Mum would return home, she was a lot stronger and this allowed us to have good days, to make memories.”

Claire and her mum were also able to share good times together at the hospice.

“I used to stay with my mum in the hospice for sleepovers. One night we ordered in pizza, cosied up in bed and watched DVDs. My mum kept falling asleep. That didn’t matter to me, I was close to her and I will always cherish that memory.”

The last Christmas together

In 2011, three weeks before Christmas, Claire’s mum went into the hospice for the last time.

“I never really knew until quite close to the end how bad she was. It got to the stage where a week and a half before she died, I think I finally realised what was going to happen. I think I just thought she had recovered twice before so why not again?”

Claire knew how special Christmas had always been to her mum. “My mum loved Christmas so much. That year, she knew that it was going to be her last Christmas.”

Claire was desperate to make her mum’s last Christmas as special as possible. With the help of the hospice team, she made this wish come true. On the morning of Christmas Day, the whole family – Maura’s five sisters, brother and all of their children, as well as Claire and her dad  ̶  arrived at the hospice.

“It was especially kind of the hospice staff as that’s what my mum really wanted  ̶  to have us all around her, and it was really important to her and all the family.”

A special tradition

Claire said that the staff at the hospice made the whole family feel welcome, and they gave them a room next door to where her mum was so they could take turns sitting with her. They also helped Claire carry out a special Christmas tradition.

“For as long as I can remember, my mum bought me new Christmas pyjamas and I would buy them for her. And that last time at the hospice, the nurses helped her wear her PJs from me.”

Claire’s mum passed away that afternoon. “I just sat holding her hand the whole time. She was surrounded by her family, the most precious people in her life.”

Claire felt the hospice nurses were like friends and that they genuinely cared for her mum.

“They were just absolutely amazing really. I can’t imagine going through it without the support of the hospice. I will never be able to express my appreciation for all the help Marie Curie gave to my mum, myself and my family. They were there for us when we needed it most.”

This Christmas, Marie Curie Hospices across the UK will be open to help families like Claire’s get the care and support they need, and spend precious time with their loved ones. Donate now to support our hospices.