Mary Lawless spent 20 years working as a nurse at St Luke’s Hospice, both on the charity’s In Patient Centre and then as part of the Community team, taking St Luke’s care out across Sheffield.
But it was when Mary was herself diagnosed with terminal cancer that she, her husband Paul and their children appreciated the full power and positive impact of the St Luke’s commitment to providing the highest levels of support to every patient.
“The care we received from St Luke’s was beyond belief,” says Paul, as he looks back on that dark time for the family.
“We have nothing but massive praise for everybody at St Luke’s – they were just so caring, so kind, so generous and we have nothing but massive praise to give them.”
And it was that level of support that inspired retired Sheffield Hallam University professor Paul to start writing poetry for the first time.
“Mary had been dead for a year and other things were happening in my world,” says Paul, who lives in Millhouses.
“I remember walking in the park and thinking I needed to do something, I needed to respond to this grief and then it just hit me – I had to get something down on paper.
“So I bought a notepad at the Post Office, came home, sharpened pencils and just started.”
Eventually Paul created enough poems to be able to submit his work to a publisher and now his debut collection, A Late Journey, is in print from Olympia Publishers.
“I started writing and I actually couldn’t believe that I had this sort of thing in me,” Paul says.
“I’d written technical books and papers and reports in the past but I had never tried writing poetry before.
“But it did help and by the time I’d finished I was in a totally different place because poetry is great for writing about your feelings, you can let your mind wander.”
Included in the collection is Hospice, a poem that looks back at the 40 nights Mary spent at St Luke’s as her fight with cancer came to an end.
“Everything about our experience at St Luke’s was so positive, it really is an extraordinary institution,” Paul says.
“It didn’t really occur to me when I was writing but some people might find a poem like Hospice useful because it is about grief, going into grief and coming out of grief.
“What I know more than three years after Mary’s death and as a result of writing is that things do change.
“It’s been an extraordinary journey for me just as it is an extraordinary journey for anybody who goes through grief.”
A Late Journey, from Olympia Publishers, is available to buy online from Amazon now.