My amazing experience of collecting for the Great Daffodil Appeal

by Sally Bailey Great Daffodil Appeal collector Sally Bailey Great Daffodil Appeal collector

I'm a rollercoaster girl, everyone who knows me says it. I do big emotions. When I'm happy I'm high above the world, when I'm low I'm almost scraping the pavement. I like it like that. What's the point of living unless you really feel it?
Collecting for Marie Curie is the same ride, a high-speed rush of conflicting emotions. I haven't done anything for charity for about 20 years, I always meant to but there's always something taking up my time. Now I'm 'between posts', making ends meet with dribs and drabs of work, and temporarily master of my own diary. And somehow, I'm not quite sure how or when, I fell a little in love with the Marie Curie Nurses who help people leave this world with dignity and grace. So when Twitter asked for an hour of my time to sell daffodils it seemed like kismet. Now, I don't like being out of my comfort zone, I stress about doing new things, but that magnificent yellow hat was like a magic cloak, it banished shyness, broke the ice, and made people laugh. The more the money clunked into my pot the taller I felt. Everyone got a big thank you, from the guy who gave me a fiver because 'you just never know if it's going to be you', to the woman who gave me 8p because that's the change she had in her purse. It all helps, doesn't it? Then there was the old lady who gave me money at a Tesco collection, then said she remembered my smile when she saw me at the Morrison's collection and donated again - then gave my fellow volunteer a quid too. And the little girl who was hurrying along behind her mum, slowed down, opened her purse, and gave me the 20p that was in it. When I told her she was kind she gave me a massive smile that made my heart dance. So many people were simply marvellous. One woman sang 'where did you get that hat' and I picked up the tune and we sang together. And people laughed at us and fished around for their purses and wallets. A fabulous white-haired lady who was walking with a stick limped all the way to her car to get some pound coins, and all the way back again. And when I gave her an extra daff for her husband to wear she looked at me like I was the one who was wonderful. Incredible. Sally Bailey Great Daffodil Appeal collectorBut the stories broke my heart and a few times it was pretty damn hard to hold back a tear. One woman told me Marie Curie Nurses had been wonderful to her son before he died. Another said they'd helped her cope before she lost her husband less than a year ago. We both welled up as I gave her a daffodil and said she could wear it for him and the nurses. I have to confess it went a bit to pot when a woman my age told me that day was her dad's birthday and he'd died of cancer. She burst into tears and so did I. I couldn't help it. I know the intense pain of losing a dad, losing anyone you really, really love. I thought of her later, wearing the daffodil she bought for her dad. I wished I'd given her a hug. So when a mum told me both she and her daughter-in-law had cancer and her daughter-in-law was really sick I did give her a hug. She hugged back, really hard. In my hometown today daffodils are being worn by a woman who has missed her long lost husband every day for 25 years, a man who has five generations of his family who have died or are living with cancer, and a kind little girl who I desperately hope will never have to use Marie Curie's services. Nurses who care for people in their dying days must make it hurt a bit less. If you believe in angels you can be sure that's what they are. So next year, when I get the choice between having a lazy breakfast in my deliciously warm bed or getting up early to stand in the cold with a silly hat on my head I'll be there - two pairs of socks, one big smile. Because the thing I've always loved about rollercoasters is the same thing I loved about collecting for Marie Curie - when it's over you're buzzing. Your cheeks hurt from grinning and you want to do it all again. You've had the highs, you've had the lows, and you come out feeling so, so lucky to be alive.