Hospital Chaplains Songs of Praise


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Hospital Chaplains

Aled Jones follows the work of a hospital chaplain and witnesses the highs and lows of life on the wards.


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Today on Songs Of Praise we go behind the scenes

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of a busy NHS hospital.

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I'm joining the chaplain here in Southport as he caters

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to the spiritual needs of staff and patients alike.

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I'm privileged enough to meet a

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couple who are getting married in the ward....

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-Hello.

-How are you?

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Shaken but not stirred.

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Their wedding has captured the imagination of the staff.

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It's something that is going to stay with me forever, I think.

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We will also hear how one woman's faith has helped sustain her

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during a five-month stay in hospital.

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..Three, up you go, Mrs.

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Our music today comes from across the United Kingdom.

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And we begin with a hymn that's

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often sung during this season of Lent.

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From the heart of the Cotswolds.

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Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust

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serves over a quarter of a million people in the North West.

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The trust employs the Rev Martin Abrams as chaplain.

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He works across two hospitals, ministering to staff and patients alike.

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I've been invited to shadow Martin on his rounds and to experience

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a snapshot of hospital life through his eyes.

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Martin has been in the role for nearly five years

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and is on call to help people in all situations.

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I bet no two days are the same here?

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Never. Often you'll get an urgent call,

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somebody's at the end of life, there's been an accident,

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A&E want you to go down and support them or support someone.

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Sometimes a phone call can change the whole course of your day.

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Do you ever wish you had a quiet parish life?

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Sometimes after a really busy day and you've been out once or twice in the night,

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maybe, but it's just a very different life.

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In churches you build up relationships with people

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over a lifetime. But here,

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you walk into people's lives for maybe an hour or two hours,

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or a week or two, and then you walk straight out of them again.

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One couple Martin has got to know well over the past few weeks

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is Kate Hart and Frank Heath.

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They've asked him to conduct their wedding on the ward,

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a first for Martin.

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Hi, Kate, hi, Frank.

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Hi.

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# Life is just a bowl of cherries... #

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MARTIN LAUGHS

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It's a chance to run through the ceremony.

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I'll say to you, "Frank, are you willing to give yourself in marriage to Kate?" and you say, "I am."

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"Kate, are you willing to give yourself in marriage to Frank?"

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"I am, yeah."

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-It's come up on us very quick.

-I know.

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But some of the most lovely weddings I've ever taken

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have been ones like this that were planned at really short notice.

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Frank has wanted to marry Kate since they first met, five years ago.

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He's now been given devastating news after receiving his test results.

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It was said that I had cancer on the liver.

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And it was so far extended

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that there was nothing they could do about it.

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Now Kate has given Frank the answer he's been waiting for.

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I couldn't let him go without saying yes.

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It's his dying wish.

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And he wants to die happy.

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I would rather he lived happy.

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I love her.

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Love her to bits.

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He was crying the other day

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because he didn't want to leave me.

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So I said, "Love never dies.

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"God is love.

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"We love because God loves us."

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You're now to share this way of life which God has created...

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Frank and Kate are determined to make their ceremony a religious one.

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I think they're going through the whole cocktail of emotions

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as it stands in humanity.

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On the one hand, they're planning the most special day they could possibly have.

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But alongside the fact that Frank's got a very stark diagnosis.

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You've got, we don't know how long, but you've got time to live happy

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together, and that's what we want.

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We want to make it...

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-We had our future first.

-(Yeah.)

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I think faith is so important to who they are,

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and their faith has brought them so far through life,

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and that's going to be a big part of what they're celebrating and focusing on.

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Preparations for the wedding are under way

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and we'll be joining Kate and Frank on their special day

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later in the programme.

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Next, a hymn that Kate has chosen.

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Every month, Chaplain Martin comes together with other chaplains

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and volunteers from Christian denominations

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to pray for the many visitors who leave messages of prayer

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in the hospital chapels.

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-ALL:

-Hear our prayer.

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I think part of the Christian tradition and part of what it is to be a community

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is to uphold before one another

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and before God the needs and the issues of people,

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whether we know them or not.

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We invite people to go in and to leave prayers and intentions

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on the prayer tree.

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Some of the prayers we read are really heartfelt prayers.

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"God help me" is perhaps one of the most heartfelt prayers we ever hear.

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Most of the patients that Martin encounters

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tend to be in hospital for a short stay,

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but some on the spinal unit, like Janet Bundy,

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become regulars on his rounds.

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Martin has known Janet for the past five months.

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An accident at home changed her life.

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I was in the middle of house moving.

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I was on the second landing.

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I took a nosedive down the stairs

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and ended up in the hall.

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And I couldn't breathe.

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My daughter came scrambling down,

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then she automatically phoned for an ambulance.

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Janet's fall left her with lasting injuries

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that she's still recovering from.

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I'm in the gym to try and improve on my transfers and my standing.

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My legs are against the bench stop. Is that allowed?

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-Not particularly.

-No?

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THEY LAUGH

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-I'm cheating.

-I have to help a bit.

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JANET LAUGHS

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Martin and the chaplaincy don't just provide spiritual rehabilitation.

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They also organise fun activities such as Messy Church.

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Often when people first come in here,

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They just see the weeks and months stretching out before them

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and just wonder how on earth they are going to cope.

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And to see her now so positive and so engaged is just wonderful.

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Amazing, she really is an amazing woman.

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Well, I'm hoping to be able to take a step or two,

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to be able to feed myself,

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and to be less dependent on other people.

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One, two...

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three, up you go, Mrs!

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Bottom.

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Janet's an incredibly spirited lady.

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Wherever you go she's laughing, joking,

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she raises the spirits of the patients and staff alike.

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And she's just a joy to be around.

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One of Janet's daughters, Val, has come in for a visit.

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And they're taking a trip down memory lane.

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-And that's us.

-Us.

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Oh, that's nice.

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My mum is pretty special.

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She's obviously had real struggles in her life

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but she just chooses to be positive.

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Normally when people have an accident or something awful happens,

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their faith wavers.

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For some reason my mum's faith seems to really galvanised with this,

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and it's just really helped her.

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My faith has always been part of me.

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It's been challenged at times.

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But has never been so challenged as since my accident.

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My communion means a lot to me.

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I've got all the faith support that I need.

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Later in the programme we'll be joining Kate

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and Frank as they make their wedding vows,

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but next a beautiful choral performance of a much-loved hymn.

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# Lord of all hopefulness Lord of all joy

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# Whose trust, ever childlike No cares could destroy

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# Be there at our waking And give us, we pray

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# Your bliss in our hearts, Lord At the break of the day

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# Lord of all eagerness Lord of all faith

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# Whose strong hands were skilled at The plane and the lathe

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# Be there at our labours And give us, we pray

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# Your strength in our hearts, Lord At the noon of the day

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# Lord of all kindliness Lord of all grace

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# Your hands swift to welcome Your arms to embrace

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# Be there at our homing And give us, we pray

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# Your love in our hearts, Lord At the eve of the day

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# Lord of all gentleness Lord of all calm

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# Whose voice is contentment Whose presence is balm

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# Be there at our sleeping And give us, we pray

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# Your peace in our hearts, Lord At the end of the day. #

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Mary Macnab is a specialist nurse in the urology departments,

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and alongside her day job she has teamed up with Chaplain Martin

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to offer a vital service to the midwives working in the hospital.

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If people are stronger than they think in those early days,

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you don't feel it all the time,

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but, you know, there's a lot of resources within ourselves.

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We, like you, just want to make things better.

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Martin and Mary are training midwives to help parents

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who experience miscarriages or stillbirth.

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It's been really important we come along and help train the midwives

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and just help strengthen communication

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and make sure that everybody's journey

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in this very sad circumstance is as best as it can be.

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Mary has personal experience of bereavement.

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She lost her daughter Sophie nearly nine years ago.

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Tell me a bit about your daughter Sophie.

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Sophie was born on the 8th of August, 2008.

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Very sadly for us, she was a stillborn baby at 37 weeks.

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I was due to have her a week later at 38 weeks.

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Mary has some treasured mementos of the time she had with her daughter.

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This was Sophie's hat that she had on at the time.

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We have her hospital bands.

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These are the plaster casts

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-from her feet.

-Right.

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-And your memories are vital.

-Of course they are.

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Mary has two other daughters and Sophie is part of all their lives.

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My other daughter's only nine months behind her,

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so we can't not remember her,

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-because every milestone she goes through Sophie would have gone through.

-Of course.

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But we do make a fuss of birthdays.

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We always get together as a close family. We do remember her.

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She is in my heart and she'll always be close to me.

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Martin the chaplain was instrumental in setting up the garden

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as a place of remembrance for those babies who are stillborn or miscarried.

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In the old days it was something you thought you got over

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and they'd never do anything to help remember them.

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Do you find that the parent use this garden?

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Do they come here to maybe feel closer to their loved ones?

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Sometimes I come down here and we'll find a mum and a dad

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or a family just sat in the garden being quiet and reflective

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and remembering.

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All the flowers you can see around you have been planted by parents,

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and so each of these is a very significant marking place

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for parents or mums and for dads.

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And one of the things we try to focus on

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is that, yes, it is a life-changing experience

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and those we love do walk with us.

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But we do learn to live life in a new context,

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we do find hope and we do journey forward, but we never forget.

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Earlier in the programmer we met Frank and Kate.

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They've called on the services of hospital chaplain Martin Abrams

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to conduct their wedding.

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Frank has a terminal diagnosis,

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and the couple know that their time together could be short.

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The staff have taken them into their hearts.

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I don't think it's usually this busy on Ward 15, but it's a special day, of course.

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Wedding preparations are in full swing and Frank has been preparing himself, too.

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-I'd love to see her face...

-Aw!

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-..when she comes round the corner.

-Aw!

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You'll have us all crying.

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You'll have me crying.

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THEY LAUGH

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She'll look lovely, won't she?

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She looks lovely anyway.

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Aw! She does, you know, you're right.

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Like all brides, Kate's feeling a bit nervous.

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-Kate.

-Hello.

-How are you?

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-Er...shaken but not stirred.

-Yeah.

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Do you find yourself praying for Frank?

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Every day. All day, every day.

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Yeah. I'm so glad that I'm able to make him happy.

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Close family and friends and all the ward staff

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have come together to witness this occasion.

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Today we're about making moments, we're about making memories,

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and that's what we're doing, we're doing something really special.

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Hey, leave that till after.

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You're beautiful.

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Whatever we're going through, the joys and the sorrows,

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there is always hope, and there is always faith.

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And in your marriage we're making a massive affirmation of that.

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I, Frank Heath...

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I, Frank Heath...

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-..take you...

-..take you...

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..Kathleen Margaret Maureen Hart...

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..Kathleen Margaret Maureen Hart...

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..to be my wedded wife.

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..to be my wedded wife.

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I, Kathleen Margaret Maureen Hart...

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I, Kathleen Margaret Maureen Hart...

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-..take you...

-..take you...

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-..Frank Heath...

-..Frank Heath...

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-..to be my wedded husband.

-..to be my wedded husband.

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With these rings...

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BOTH: With these rings...

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We pledge ourselves to each other.

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I therefore proclaim that you are now husband and wife.

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I love you.

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I love you.

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I've got to ask you both, what does it mean to you

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to be married to this lady now?

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It's mind-blowing.

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I love him and I'm so glad he's happy now.

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I'm so thankful to both of you for sharing...

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it's not a big day, it's a massive day...

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the biggest day with us.

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This is the first time I've ever seen a wedding on a ward,

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and it's something that's going to stay with me forever, I think.

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I'm really, really proud of everyone that works on the ward.

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It will certainly go down in history, today.

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I don't think I've ever had a greater privilege than sharing in a service like that.

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You go home exhausted and fulfilled.

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What more could you ask?

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So, Kate and Frank's wedding day went off brilliantly well

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with the help of Chaplain Martin,

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and what an honour for us to be sharing

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their big day with them.

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Next week, it's Mothering Sunday.

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We'll be meeting two remarkable women. I hope you can join us.

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In the meantime, we'll leave you with our final hymn. Bye-bye.

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Aled Jones follows the work of a hospital chaplain and witnesses the highs and lows of life on the wards.

Music:

I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say from All Saints Church, Cheltenham I Cannot Tell from St Aidan's Church, Leeds Kumbaya from St James The Greater, Leicester Lord Of All Hopefulness by Romsey Abbey Choir He Knows My Name from St Germain's Church, Birmingham Love Divine, All Loves Excelling from Romsey Abbey, Romsey What A Friend We Have In Jesus from Ballydown Presbyterian Church, Banbridge.