Derry family join in ‘Lights to Remember’ service

Local bereaved parents Robert & Carol Lynch, and Hester Clarke at the Lights to Remember Service.
Local bereaved parents Robert & Carol Lynch, and Hester Clarke at the Lights to Remember Service.

A Derry family who lost their teenage daughter in 2009 - have joined with the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice at a special Lights to Remember Service at The Playhouse.

Carol and Robert Lynch joined in a short service that was followed by a candlelit procession and the official switch-on of the Christmas tree lights at The Playhouse in memory of local children and others. The event featured the St Oliver Plunkett Folk Group and was attended by more than 60 local people, many of whom have previously been, or are currently being, supported by NI Children’s Hospice.

The couple explained how the hospice had been a lifeline to them, especially during their daughter’s illness.

“Our daughter Ashleigh was a young girl with complex medical needs,” explained Carol. “In 2007 when Ashleigh was 13, she had to go to The Royal in Belfast to have a feeding tube inserted. We met a Social Worker who came to talk to us. She asked us if we had heard of the Northern Ireland Children’s and told us about their Hospice at Home Service.

“The Social Worker then referred us to the Hospice. We were invited up in March to stay for the weekend. Going up to the Hospice was very scary because we did not know what to expect. But from the minute we arrived, we were put at ease and treated with great kindness. Ashleigh was given a nurse to work with her and we stayed in a family room. The Hospice was not what we expected. We thought it was going to be full of sick children, which it was, but the children were happy, having fun and being treated so special. On one occasion there was a television reality show final and the nurses had a pyjama party with all the children.

“Even the ones in bed were pushed up to the party. In the Hospice everybody was treated the same - ‘special’. At home we used the Hospice at Home nurses. These girls came into our house to care for Ashleigh. They were like an extended family and provided a much appreciated service. This enabled us to do things again with our other family members while we knew Ashleigh was being cared for at home. In October 2009 Ashleigh passed away, but the Hospice continues to offer support and friendship to our family and this has helped us through a very difficult time.

“To any parents who are apprehensive about using the service, please don’t be scared. The Children’s Hospice is there to help and will be a lifeline to you and your children.”