When Derek and Margaret Fox died, their children and grandchildren wanted to do something special to remember them. Sue Charalambous tells the Recorder why the family found great comfort in dedicating a leaf to their mum and dad on Saint Francis Hospice's Memory Tree.

My mum and dad were the best parents and they were idolised by their seven grandchildren. We were a very close family and I have so many wonderful memories.

When Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in June 2009, he wasn’t given long to live but he managed to survive for another nine months.

Mum cared for him at home but when he became very ill, we knew Saint Francis Hospice was the best place to go.

He went in to the ward for pain management but we knew he was not coming home.

He was there for 11 days and all the nurses, staff and volunteers couldn’t do enough for him.

Dad passed away on March 27, 2010. We will always be grateful for how they looked after him. He was not in any pain and he had his dignity.

Barking and Dagenham Post: Saint Francis HospiceSaint Francis Hospice (Image: Archant)

I heard about the Memory Tree and thought it was a lovely way to remember Dad. He was in our hearts but I thought it would be nice to have a leaf on the tree.

It turned out that we were one of the first people to get a leaf on the tree and we met Princess Alexandra when she came to the hospice in 2010 to officially open it.

My mum loved having a leaf on the tree for dad. She used to find comfort coming to the hospice to look at the tree when it was dad’s birthday and on the date he passed away.

Until mum became ill in 2020, you would never have known her age. She was so fit and independent. She became a great grandmother in 2012 and she was so young and vibrant, we really thought she’d carry on forever.

On Christmas eve, mum needed to be admitted into hospital. She had cancer and it had spread.

Mum was discharged on February 15 but she became very ill in March and when she went into the hospice, she really perked up. She was able to get out of bed and wash herself. She wasn’t sick or in any pain.

Mum returned home but the hospice became involved again when she became very unwell. She died on April 5 – the day before her 86th birthday.

The first thing we wanted to do was get a leaf on the tree. It is somewhere to go and it is something for the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to remember them by.