Light Up a Life in memory of your loved ones this Christmas

A Basildon family is paying tribute to their daughter and the hospice that cared for her through a special Christmas remembrance campaign.

Havens Hospices’ initiative gives people the chance to dedicate a light in memory of someone close to them on its Christmas Trees at its two hospices, Little Havens in Thundersley and Fair Havens in Prittlewell.

This year Nicola and Roy Branchflower’s family will be dedicating lights on the charity’s hospice Christmas Trees. Their lights will shine brightly in memory of their daughter Ellie, 3, who died in December 2015.

Light up a Life is an opportunity for the family to remember Ellie and make a donation to Little Havens in her memory. Nicola says: “It’s very important to us that we do not forget Little Havens and everything they have done for us as a family. As we lost Ellie so close to Christmas it can be a difficult time for us and although Ellie is always in our thoughts, this is the case even more so during the festive period. As a family we prefer not to mark the day she died, we mark happy occasions like her birthday in May.”

Ellie and her Dad Roy

Ellie had a rare genetic condition called MEN Type IIB, Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia – a genetic condition which affects all the organs in the endocrine system.  As part of her condition Ellie had her thyroid gland removed and had an ileostomy stoma bag fitted before she was one. In November 2013 when she was just 18 months old, Ellie had a cardiac arrest. She was left brain-damaged and was in hospital for several months. After spending time in Great Ormond Street Hospital, Ellie was transferred to Basildon Hospital and then discharged home.

As part of her discharge meeting the family was introduced to Little Havens and offered the opportunity to visit. When Ellie started attending Little Havens, her parents noticed a positive change in her. Nicola said: “When Ellie first had her cardiac arrest she was unresponsive and in a lot of pain. As her pain was better managed, we saw a change in Ellie – she would respond to me, her Dad Roy and in particular her older brother Joseph. She even smiled and this was what everyone remembered about her, particularly the staff that cared for her at Little Havens, she was always happy and smiling.”

Ellie needed many medications throughout the day and night and Little Havens supported the family offering respite. Nicola said: “While we received respite, the staff would take care of the medical side of things and we could relax and be parents again rather than just carers.”

Ellie visited Little Havens from 2014 until she died in December 2015.

“The biggest help Little Havens gave us as a family was after Ellie died. She was taken to the Woodland Suite and we all stayed at Little Havens with her in the days leading up to her funeral on Christmas Eve 2015. The Woodland Suite gave us a chance to say goodbye to Ellie properly and help us come to terms with the fact that she was gone. I think without that time we would’ve struggled to cope. The staff at Little Havens were so caring and very respectful of us and Ellie, it’s something that really touched Roy and I at the time and something we will never forget – this is why we feel we owe a debt to Little Havens for getting us through such an awful time.”

Candle shining in memory of Ellie in December 2020

Not only does a donation dedicate a light,  but the charity will also send a personalised remembrance card, tag and a small gift as a token of its gratitude. If a dedication is received by Monday 22nd November, names of loved ones will also be placed in a special feature in the Echo on 10th December and inside a Book of Remembrance available to view throughout December at Fair Havens Hospice, Southend Crematorium, Canvey Methodist Church and St Mary’s Church, Southend.

Every dedication will be supporting more local families in need of hospice care, helping them make treasured memories this Christmas.

With Coronavirus restrictions eased, the hospice is welcoming back its local special remembrance services along with an online Light Up a Life service on Friday 10th December at 7pm. The online service will be streamed on the charity’s Facebook page @HavensHospices.

Subject to Government guidelines, this year’s in-person remembrance services will take place on:

  • Saturday 4th December at 4pm – Canvey Methodist Church, SS8 9AB
  • Sunday 5th December at 4pm – St Mary’s Church, Southend, SS2 6LQ
  • Saturday 11th December at 2.30pm – Southend Crematorium, SS2 5PX
  • Sunday 12th December at 4pm – Hadleigh Salvation Army Temple, SS7 2PF

Like last year, the charity’s Light up a Life campaign is especially poignant this year with an unprecedented number of people in the community facing bereavement because of Coronavirus. Light Up a Life is an opportunity to reflect and remember those families whose loved ones have died during the pandemic and were unable to be with them, to hold their hand and say goodbye. Last year, just over 900 people came together in grief, in remembrance and in celebration of the people they love, miss and hold in their hearts.

Sharon Davies,  who organises the campaign at Havens Hospices, said: “As the festive season approaches, Havens Hospices understands that it can sometimes be a difficult time, particularly for anyone who is experiencing bereavement. After another difficult year for so many because of the pandemic, we want to bring together our community to grieve and remember our family and friends.

“When our Christmas trees are lit up, they are a beautiful and touching reminder of special people who are no longer with us, with every sparkle representing the life of someone who is greatly missed and fondly remembered.

“You don’t have to have experienced our hospice care to dedicate a light and anyone can join our services. You’ll be coming together with others in the community remembering loved ones while ‘Making every day count’ for everyone we care for in the future.”

Havens Hospices provides palliative nursing and supportive care to children, young people and adults living with complex or incurable conditions across Essex.  Their specialist Care Teams can support them and their family throughout illness, death and bereavement, in the comfort of their own home or at their hospices. They focus on their quality of life, caring for individual physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs.

To Light up a Life in memory of a loved one today, visit or call Sharon on 01702 220 310.

Published 12th November 2021

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Candles lit at a service