Jackie was a larger-than-life member of our Focus on Living Ladies’ Exercise Group, which she attended for several years after being diagnosed with a life-limiting illness.
But as our Wellbeing Co-ordinator, Carole Taylor, remembers, it took a while for Jackie to fully embrace the group’s support. She said:
“When Jackie was referred to us, she was angry about her prognosis and did not speak for the first few weeks.”
The mum-of-one was understandably struggling with the complex emotions around her diagnosis, compounded by having to leave her job as a paediatric A&E nurse. But as the weeks passed, Jackie found comfort in being with women in a similar situation and she started making friends and joining in.
Carole also recognised Jackie’s perceived loss of purpose and began giving her jobs, such as serving tea and coffee and helping new group members settle in. Here, Jackie thrived.
The group of women bonded in and out of their weekly sessions, helped by Jackie who set up a WhatsApp Group so that those who wanted to could keep in touch.
Carole recalls one week the Ladies’ Group were talking about bucket lists and she overheard Jackie mention she wanted to learn the Haka – the ceremonial Māori war dance gifted to the All Blacks rugby team. Carole decided to speak to Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club, who put her in touch with two players from New Zealand.
The players visited the Ladies’ Group and described a Haka that represents the journey into the afterlife. They taught the group some of the words and moves, after which Carole reveals the women asked if they could perform their Haka in the hospice garden.
“Jackie and the ladies did their Haka in front of staff and volunteers. It was such a spiritual and moving experience.”
Death and dying are never too far from the women’s minds, including Jackie, whose first thought was always how her beloved son, Daniel – who was still in his 20s – would cope without her.
As a result, Jackie worked with Carole to create a booklet that detailed important information such as wishes around end-of-life care, funeral arrangements and even information on pets (Jackie was the devoted owner of dog, Sebastian). The booklet is now offered to everyone who attends the Focus on Living Centre and features a special dedication to Jackie and Daniel on its opening page.
Sadly, Jackie died this summer leaving a void in all our hearts.
Asked how Carole will remember the former nurse, she replied:
“I’ll remember someone strong, funny and caring. Jackie made time for everyone. She never lost that nursing instinct.”
“I’ll also remember her as the ‘Tattoo Lady’. Jackie got a new tattoo every time something significant happened in her life. You could point to any one and she’d tell you a story about it.”
This Tattoo Lady clearly left an indelible mark on everyone she met.
We will be remembering Jackie and all of the other people who have touched our lives at St Oswald’s Hospice, by lighting a candle in their memory as part of
our Light up a Life campaign later this year. If you would like to remember someone special by dedicating a light in their memory, you can find out more by visiting our dedicated Light up a Life page.