Cherish the moments with loved ones facing death and don’t be afraid to ask for support - Daxa Patel

Precious time is made up of every moment of our lives but there are some moments that are more precious than others such as the birth of a child and the death of a loved one, in my case, the death of my precious dad.

On Sunday, I will mark what would have been my dad’s 106th birthday. It is a decade since he passed yet this day still seems like a mountain to climb. Death, end of life, and dying are universal challenges. If a person dies after a long life, one expects it to be easier to come to terms with, but we humans are wired majestically, one size does not fit us all. Death, dying and grief though universal experiences are as unique as our DNA.

In this fast-paced life of instant gratification we sometimes never gain the life skills needed to make the most of these key moments. Last week I attended a friend’s mum’s funeral. It was held at the same crematorium where my father’s funeral took place. Memories of the eulogy I gave came flooding back and I concluded that I was like so many bereaved daughters and sons exceptionally blessed to have walked the final lap with a much-loved parent. There was grace, grace of witnessing a good death. My friend cared diligently for her mum, and this is what all carers do. They support their loved ones in every way imaginable and protect them like a hawk. I was one of them.

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Her mother’s death was incredibly peaceful just like my dad’s and this got me thinking how many people are unable to make the most of this precious time while they are juggling with the care aspect. In Leeds we are blessed to have two hospices, one of which is St. Gemma’s Hospice which has been serving our city since 1978. Hospices are a safe place where the terminally ill are cared for with compassion. The staff are well trained and they know how to support the dying, and their families with loving kindness. Care homes on the other hand usually offer residential care or nursing care, but this does not always include end of life care.

Daxa Patel sat on her father's memorial bench in Golden Acre park in Leeds. PIC: Gary LongbottomDaxa Patel sat on her father's memorial bench in Golden Acre park in Leeds. PIC: Gary Longbottom
Daxa Patel sat on her father's memorial bench in Golden Acre park in Leeds. PIC: Gary Longbottom

For my dad he was offered end of life care at St. Gemma’s, but we managed to care for him at home where he died peacefully. We can make the final lap an incredibly powerful and empowering chapter for the dying, and for those of us left behind. If we consider birth as a sacred moment so is death but over the years, we have lost the rituals attached to death which is a shame.

Here are some tips that may help both those facing the end of life stage of their loved ones:

Embrace the present: Encourage the person facing the end of life to focus on the present moment, cherishing the time they have left and making meaningful connections with their loved ones.

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Open communication: Encourage open and honest communication. This can help address any unresolved issues and strengthen relationships. We all need to be healed and it helps if we can close all wounds. It helps to ask the dying about their wishes.

Create lasting memories: Encourage the person to engage in activities that bring them joy and create lasting memories with their loved ones. I still cherish the things we did together during this period.

Seek support: It helps if we get the right sort of support for those involved, such as support from a counsellor, therapist, or a death doula. Having a dedicated support system can make a significant difference during this challenging time.

Celebrate life: Encourage celebrating the life of the person facing the end of life, focusing on their accomplishments, the impact they have had on others, and the love they have shared.

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Practice self-care: For those assisting someone in their end-of-life journey, it is essential to practise self-care. Taking care of your physical, emotional and mental well-being will enable you to provide better support to your loved one. I overlooked this back then.

Express gratitude: Encourage expressing gratitude for the time spent together, the lessons learned, and the love shared. Gratitude can bring comfort and peace during tough times. And pray if it feels right.

Remember, each person's end-of-life journey is unique, and it is essential to approach it with compassion, understanding, and love.

Coming back to my favourite charity. On Sunday 21 and Monday 22 April, St. Gemma’s Hospice will be running a new 36 hours fundraising initiative called the Precious Time Appeal. Their target is to raise £200,000, and every pound donated will be doubled by major donors. I am enthusiastic about this hospice because I have been the recipient of their selfless support while I was knee deep in my grief following the death of my dad. I was also privileged to run the London Marathon on what would have been my dad’s 100th birthday for St. Gemma’s Hospice.

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I cannot think of a better way to celebrate my father’s birthday on April 21 other than by supporting St. Gemma’s Hospice through the Precious Time Appeal. If anyone feels called to lend a hand further details can be found at

Daxa Patel is a leadership coach, author and solicitor.

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