St Catherine’s hosts first graduation ceremony
St Catherine’s Hospice played host to a graduation ceremony for the first time in its 31 year history – when one of its patients received his Masters degree in a moving presentation attended by friends and family.
Max Neill was staying at the Lostock Hall hospice for the second time at the end of February, following a period spent on the in-patient unit last Christmas. When the hospice’s Family Support Team heard he was due to graduate from the University of Manchester with a Masters of Arts in Critical Learning Disabilities Studies but was unable to make it to the official university ceremony, they worked with Max’s family to organise a presentation of their own on site in the hospice chapel.
Dr Craig Blyth from the university attended the event and presented the certificate to Max, who was joined by family and friends for the occasion. Sadly Max, who had bowel cancer, died just a week later after returning home to Broadgate, Preston, which had been his wish.
His daughter Charlotte said: “The graduation was a very special occasion and we are all so proud of what he achieved. It was wonderful to mark his achievements through the ceremony, and I know he was pleased to have been able to share the occasion with his friends, family and the university.”
Following Max’s stay at St Catherine’s over the festive period, he published a blog about what it was like spending Christmas in a hospice. His honest and moving account was shared via social media across Lancashire, the region and around the country.
Over the following two months he continued to blog about important issues around palliative care, including his thoughts on planning and preparing for the end of life, which were also covered by a national newspaper.
Speaking last month Max, aged 49, said: “I admit it felt risky to write about the prospect of my own death, how I intend to prepare for it. How I intend to live as well for as long as possible with the people I love before and until my death happens.
“But I decided to be as open, honest and simple in my writing as I dared. I think people who read my blog appreciated this approach. I would like the experience of the last months of my own life to be genuinely useful to other people – I wonder whether I can do this by writing not as an expert, but as a human being.”
Jimmy Brash, Director of Care at St Catherine’s Hospice, thanked Max and his family for sharing their experiences to help raise awareness of important issues around end of life care, and the impact that hospice care can have.
He said: “The honesty with which Max wrote about his situation was extremely brave, and it is easy to see how his blogs resonated with people across Central Lancashire, around the country and beyond.
“His passion and determination to use his experiences to help make a difference to others facing the end of life was truly inspiring. We are very grateful to Max and everyone who shares their experiences of St Catherine’s and hospice care to build a greater understanding of what really matters at this most poignant time.
“We were proud to host the graduation ceremony for Max here at the hospice and are pleased his family and friends were able to share in this memorable occasion with him.
“Our thoughts and best wishes go out to all of Max’s family and friends. We hope the lasting legacy Max has left will provide some comfort at this most difficult time.”
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