Rachel Maughan, 42, from Bishop Auckland will be thinking of a very special person this Christmas; her partner Steve, who died aged 33 in 2009. Rachel has chosen to honour Steve’s memory by taking part in St Oswald’s Hospice’s ‘Light up a Life’ – an annual celebration of life and remembrance campaign to raise vital funds for the local charity.
Rachel and her two children, Nathan, 15 and Finlay, 10 will be making a donation to the Hospice in Steve’s memory and will receive a card containing his name, to display at home and a ‘memory star’ onto which they can write a message and hang on their tree. They will also be attending the Light up a Life service, held at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena on Tuesday 12th December where they will be joined with hundreds of other families from across the region. The service will also see the switch on of Christmas tree lights, which sparkle in their thousands in memory of all the loved ones being remembered.
Rachel works as an Estate Planning Lead for Co-op Funeralcare, and first heard about the campaigns as her employer are the headline sponsors, and have supported Light up a Life for several years. She explains a little bit about how special Steve was to her and family:
“I met Steve when I was going through a divorce in 2005 – I already had a little boy, Nathan, who was 3. It was a bit of a whirlwind romance – and although it sounds corny, it was love at first sight. We moved in together in 2006, and in 2007 we had our little boy Finlay.
“Steve was a typical blokey bloke – the kind who doesn’t go to the doctor, never took time off sick from work – he was a big strong lad, and a proper practical joker – life was a lot of fun.
“At Christmas 2008 he built a Tardis in our back garden for Nathan, it made it into the local press and onto the local news. Steve was shy and didn’t want to be on telly so he just went to work as usual.
“Steve contracted sepsis after a dog bite, and while he was in Darlington hospital in an induced coma, I sat with him and talked to him as he was hooked up to machines – just like you see on TV. Sadly, Steve never woke up – he passed away at 10.40pm Wednesday 4th Feb. I know it’s really weird thing to say, but the thought that flashed in my mind when they told me he was gone, I looked at the clock and noticed the time, and thought ‘someone somewhere just won the lottery’ and I had to go home and tell my kids – then aged 7 and 14 months – that Steve wouldn’t be coming home.”
Rachel has chosen to take part in Light up a Life this year with work colleagues from Co-op Funeralcare and her two sons.
“At home, we talk about Steve like he’s still part of the family which I thought was important especially for Finlay who doesn’t have any memory of his Dad. As a family we weren’t offered any kind of bereavement services or support after Steve died, and since working for Co-op I’ve learned so much that I wish I’d known. Through my own job, I feel passionate about getting the message out there that help is available. People never know what’s around the corner and there is help out there if they know where to look.”
Anyone can remember a loved one by taking part in Light up a Life, whether they have a connection to St Oswald’s or not. Once a donation has been made in memory, supporters will receive their card and star, and will be invited to attend the remembrance service in December. The uplifting service will feature musical performances from Newcastle Concert Band and Urban Chorus Choir. As part of the service children will be invited on stage to sing a festive carol if they wish. Family, friends and colleagues are all welcome to come along to the service too.
Light up a Light aims to raise over £100,000 to allow St Oswald’s to continue to support adults and children with incurable conditions from across the region. All donations made to the campaign will support the work of the local charity, which has to raise over £7 million each year to keep the service free for everyone who needs it.