Honours at the Hospice for a Very Proud Moment
Nigel Hart first met Carol at a youth club back in the late 70s. He plucked up the courage to ask her out on a date five years later and within six weeks they were engaged. They wed a year later and were happily married for almost 40 years until she very sadly lost her battle with cancer last November. We met up with Nigel and their daughter Emma, to find out more about Carol’s remarkable life and to hear how she came to be presented with an MBE at St Luke’s.
Carol achieved a huge amount in her life but what always mattered most to her was family. A daughter, big sister, wife, mother to Emma and Michelle and a proud Grandma to seven grandchildren, she was also known throughout her local community as Auntie Carol. Nigel told us, “She had this amazing love for everybody. She was like a powerhouse and was such an inspiration to people. And she was always bubbly. She had this amazing laugh. Everybody smiled when she laughed! She had this fantastic effect on everyone.”
He continued, “She was exceptionally capable. Whatever she set her mind to. She just did.” Since 2002, Carol managed over 300 volunteers for the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR). She also represented the charity at national Holocaust commemorations. She introduced services to enhance the dignity and quality of life for Holocaust survivors and she was a lifeline for many, keeping in regular contact on the telephone with those who were alone. In 2019 Carol was nominated for Woman of the Year but the TV awards event was postponed two years in a row because of Covid and she sadly never got to go.
Carol had already survived stage 4 breast cancer so when she learnt in the summer of 2020 that she now had uterine cancer, she was stoic. She initially carried on working, with many around her unaware of her serious illness. Emma told us that she even organised a family holiday to Center Parcs for the family that August, bringing all the food. But between September and November she suffered a very quick decline. During that time there were many hospital visits but Emma added, “I don’t think any of us thought it would end so quickly.”
When Carol was referred to St Luke’s, it was already somewhere very familiar to Nigel because his mother had passed away here six years ago. “My parents actually celebrated their 65th anniversary while she was in the Hospice. Everyone was amazing.” He continued, “When Carol phoned me to say that they were stopping her treatment, I knew then that that she wouldn’t have much longer. They said they would transfer her to St Luke’s and I basically thought there is no better place.”
But months before coming to St Luke’s, Carol had been told that she was on the New Year’s Honours List to receive an MBE for her services to the AJR. She had received a letter saying it was going to be on 15 December at Windsor Castle. Nigel told us, “I think she hoped it was going to be William to give it to her. But by that time she was struggling with walking and we didn’t think she would make it. We spoke to the Cabinet Office and St Luke’s and it was quickly arranged that this immensely proud moment could take place at the Hospice.”
Emma added, “At first Mum was adamant she didn’t want it because she’d basically been in her nightdress for the last six weeks and hadn’t got out of bed. She wasn’t in the headspace to be thinking about such a thing. A part of us was really worried, were we doing the wrong thing?” So it wasn’t arranged until the day it was officially rubberstamped. “Then she started worrying about what she was going to wear and the earrings and the jewellery and the makeup but we helped her figure it all out and she was very happy that we did”.
“It was so special. St Luke’s gave us this lovely room and this guy arrives in his fancy car with a flag on the front and he comes out wearing his uniform including a sword. Me and my sister were Facetiming our children, so all the grandchildren were watching. It was a wonderful afternoon and I think she really appreciated it. She was really happy and although exhausted afterwards, she seemed really at peace.”
Very sadly, Carol passed away just four days later.
Nigel told us, “The Hospice is such a wonderful place and gave us peace of mind. We always knew that she would be properly cared for here. We were there just ten days but the staff, they just keep going and helping people.”
Wanting to help and remain a part of the Hospice community, Nigel undertook the Annual Walk this summer, raising much needed funds. ”When I heard about the walk, I thought, I’ve got to do it. Because you need the funds and I’ll do whatever I can do to help.”