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Carly & Siobhan's Story: Celebrating Anita

Anita pumpkin picking

Last year was the first time cousins Carly & Siobhan took part in Moonlight Walk to support close friends. They are both walking this year in memory of their Nanny Anita, who died in December 2023.

“I knew a little bit about Hospice in the Weald through friends, whose parents had been cared for at the Hospice in Pembury, and as a group we were looking for things to do to remember our loved ones, and to celebrate their lives, then we came across Moonlight Walk,” Carly shares.

Anita family photo

Anita's background

In Anita’s younger days, she was always busy organising barn dances, where she catered for hundreds of people. Since the family can remember she has always taken on the role of host, having lots of people over to her house, organising parties, cooking up incredible meals and making sure everyone had a wonderful time.

“We are very lucky that we have so many memories with our Nanny, one that stands out for me is when we went to see Tom Jones in concert, Nanny danced the night away,” says Carly.

“Growing up I spent a lot of time with Nanny, when my mum came to pick me up I’d hide under Nanny’s kitchen table. I loved to hear all the stories she’d tell of my Dad, Auntie and Grandad,” adds Siobhan.

Anita also loved playing bowls, bingo and adored being surrounded by her five children, 14 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Carly described her Nanny as kind, a great listener and someone that gave time to everyone she met, because she really cared.

Carly says: “We’d go round for Sunday roast’s and she’d put on a great spread for all our family, friends, anyone who knocked at the door! She loved a house full of people.”

Hospice care was a surprise

Anita’s wish was to be at home, surrounded by her family in her last few months, and when her GP recommended she be referred to Hospice in the Weald, Carly & Siobhan were shocked at the word hospice, and the thought of their Nanny going into one.

“It was a real panic to hear the word hospice, we just thought it was a place people go at the end of their life, to die,” Siobhan claims. “Our eyes were opened by all the other services that exist to support people to live, make memories and be comfortable. After speaking with Nanny’s care team, we were instantly at ease, and felt completely confident in their care and were so grateful for their support.”

Anita and family photo

Support she could rely on

“Nanny was so grateful at the fact that she could stay at home surrounded by all of us, in her safe space. We always knew the Hospice team were on hand at any time, I could ring with any question. I was told many times there were no silly questions. It was so helpful and a relief knowing the team was there for not only our Nan but for the entire family,” Carly adds.

“When we knew Nanny didn’t have much time left with us we created a rota and agreed to all stay with Nan, so she would never be alone.

“Nanny was very stubborn, even until the end she was fighting, she didn’t let what she was going through stop her from supporting her family and being there for every single one of them. She was such an incredible lady. The matriarch of the family. We couldn’t have asked for more from her, she gave it all.”

Precious family memories

During this time, so many memories were created, from sleepovers to decorating for Christmas, to Anita playing pranks on her daughter, daughter-in-law and granddaughters.

“We’d all be laughing with Nanny, our mattresses on the floor beside her, watching films, it was so lovely to be able to make some lasting memories with her at home,” Siobhan shares.

Anita, Carly and Siobhan

The time spent surrounding their nan not only created lovely memories but also brought the family closer together. “No one knows how it feels until you go through something like caring for a loved one, so we were grateful that we had each other, and we could lean on each other at any time,” she continues.

The cousins both shared the same favourite memory of their Nanny Anita during the time they were staying with her at home. “The memory that makes us laugh the most was during Nanny’s last week, when we were all having a sleepover, trying to get off to sleep, not moving a muscle so we didn’t disturb Nanny, and she just sat up out of know where and at the top of her voice said ‘wakey wakey!’. It was hilarious, Nanny still had that sense of humour and spark,” Carly remembers.

There were countless memories the family fondly look back on, like holidays to Portugal, Ireland where Anita’s husband Patrick was from, and weddings, but the most special time for the family was Christmas.

During the last few weeks in December, the family were asked numerous times if Anita was hanging on for something special, the answer was always Christmas. She was determined to spend Christmas with her family, surrounded by love. And she did just that. Later that day she closed her eyes for the last time.

Carly says: “Nanny making it for Christmas and spending the whole day with us showed us what incredible strength and fight she had and making sure she got what she wanted.

“From the moment Nanny got sick, there was one thing that she said, that has stuck with us. ‘You’re allowed to cry, because although they are sad tears, they are tears of love.’ Those words have stuck with us ever since losing Nanny, they are so true and mean so much to us.”

Carly & Siobhan MLW

Moonlight Walk excitement

“Last year’s Moonlight Walk was so much fun, from start to finish. The excitement of gaining donations, getting ready, and putting on our tutus along with glitter & leg warmers! The event is very well arranged, and you are supported throughout the walk,” Carly says.

“The atmosphere was lovely from the Rock choir singing at the start all the way through to the finish line. If you are concerned about the walk don’t worry it is really fun and the time flies as you walk through Knole Park and Sevenoaks!

“Leading up to the Moonlight Walk last year, I felt sceptical. Walking wasn’t really something I enjoyed, but by the end and after a glass of prosecco, I truly did enjoy myself. Seeing so many people lighting the streets of Sevenoaks was beautiful and more so that it was for this wonder place.”

She continues: “This year we’re going all out, bigger and better with our outfits, Rainbow leg warmers, glitter, and tutus. Make sure to look out for us!”

Carly and Siobhan, along with their family and friends are taking on the 13-mile route this year, after completing the 8 mile in 2023. They’ve set themselves a new challenge that won’t go without a few stops along the way for a G&T, or sweet treat.

Join Carly, Siobhan and hundreds of others at this years Moonlight Walk… sparkle and glow through Sevenoaks and Knole by signing up below!
Moonlight Walk 2023 - ladies enjoying drinks

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