21 September 2022
Gary’s stay was not what the couple had expected - to their surprise hospice was “so full of
love. There was kindness and laughter – and fantastic food,” Ann says.
For 53 years Ann and Gary Sims celebrated
every wedding anniversary with a meal and nice
bottle of wine. And on their 50th anniversary
Gary pulled out all the stops and surprised Ann
with a round-the-world trip.
Their 54th anniversary was different, because
that was the day - 18 March 2021 - that Gary
was admitted to Harbour Hospice’s Inpatient
Unit with advanced prostate cancer. Staff and
volunteers still made this difficult day special by
decorating Gary’s room with a huge Happy
Anniversary sign, and the family cracked open a
bottle of bubbly. Ann says they were touched to
have such a warm welcome. “I didn’t even know
how they knew it was our anniversary.”
Gary’s stay was not what the couple had
expected - to their surprise hospice was “so full
of love. There was kindness and laughter – and
fantastic food,” Ann says.
Gary, who had volunteered for hospice as a community visitor, loved the nurses. And the family was delighted that they were even able to bring their sister-in-law’s dog Tilly in, who gave Gary a big lick on his face.
"He asked for bacon, sausages, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and hashbrowns - then ordered it again for lunch!”
At 75 years old, Gary was as trim as the day Ann had met him (at a nightclub in Auckland where they’d locked eyes across a crowded room. Ann was 18 and Gary, 21). And he still had a ravenous appetite, despite being at a stage in his illness where others can lose interest in food.
“On his first morning at hospice the lovely cook, Jocelyn, came down and asked Gary what he’d like for breakfast. He asked for bacon, sausages, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and hashbrowns - then ordered it again for lunch! Gary had always enjoyed his food,” Ann laughs.
Gary had the same breakfast every morning and Ann says the cooks absolutely loved cooking for him. Just like the kitchen is the heart of the home, it’s also the heart of hospice, where our cooks, with the support of volunteers, take real pleasure in providing nutritious bespoke meals for patients and their families. Not everyone maintains a hearty appetite like Gary, so their approach to providing meals is unique.
Harbour Hospice Household Manager Cathie Jack explains, “At Hospice, enjoying a meal can be more about reliving a special memory. An aroma might take a patient back to happy afternoons in their grandmother’s kitchen. The look of a meal, to the place where they met their husband or wife. So, it’s all about the senses. Sometimes it’s about simply holding the food to their lips so they can relish that taste again.”
On Gary’s seventh morning he couldn’t stomach a big breakfast and Ann knew something was
amiss. But she still expected to take her husband home the next day because he’d been
doing so well, and his pain levels were being managed beautifully.
Overnight, though, he deteriorated, and Ann received a phone call telling her to come in. She got there with five minutes to spare before he died peacefully, with her hand in his. She remembers feeling grateful to see that a nurse had sat with him until she arrived.
Eighteen months on, Ann feels lost without her “best mate” - who she remembers as a loving dad and grandfather and larger-than-life character - positive, fun, friendly and able to excel at whatever he did.
She speaks through tears as she remembers Gary’s last day at hospice. “All the nurses and doctors lined up as Gary’s body was carried from the room, to say goodbye. I was just so moved by that.
“And then I found out afterwards that one of the cooks, Lil, had gone home for the day but drove all the way back in when she found out Gary had died, especially to make the family lunch.”
Ann counts herself as a private person, who wouldn’t normally say yes to being interviewed
for a story like this.
“But everyone at hospice was so caring. May they all be blessed for Gary’s wonderful care.”
By becoming a Hospice Heart you can give a moment of delight with the gift of a delicious meal, fresh baking and even bright flowers. Sign up with your regular monthly gift and be part of making these moments happen.