Memorial unveiled at Sunderland hospice

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EMOTIONS ran high during the unveiling of a memorial statue at a hospice.

Families and friends of those who died in St Benedict’s Hospice, Monkwearmouth Hospital, between 1994 and 2013 shed tears as the sculpture was unveiled on Saturday.

Denise Robertson with the new statue at the Monkwearmouth site of St Benedict's Hospice.

Denise Robertson with the new statue at the Monkwearmouth site of St Benedict's Hospice.

Named Held in Mind, the stone statue by sculptor Danny Clahane was revealed by TV agony aunt Denise Robertson, from East Boldon, who recently stepped down as president of the hospice after 20 years.

Denise, whose son John Tomlin died of cancer at St Benedict’s in 2006, said unveiling the statue was an emotional way to end her time with the hospice.

“I’m very attached,” she said. “It’s at a time when you’re at rock bottom that a hospice is a sanctuary.

“It’s especially emotional for me because of the long association I have here, and because my son died here.

“He was only in for 24 hours, but it was wonderful. They gave him everything he needed.”

She added: “I’m very, very glad that they want to remember not only the people who died here, but the staff who are unbelievably wonderful, and the people who raised money, and do things for the patients. And it’s good that we are leaving behind a tribute to the work that went on here.”

Members of Denise’s family joined scores of others to hear St Benedict’s Hospice chaplain Caroline Worsfold read prayers in honour of those who died in the Monkwearmouth Hospital building.

The statue, which features the tree of life surrounded by hands, is linked to a statue at the new St Benedict’s Hospice in Ryhope, also picturing the tree of life.

Caroline, who has been head of bereavement services at St Benedict’s for 20 years, said it was a way to “keep the connection” between the two facilities.

“Because Denise has stepped down as president, unveiling the statue is probably the last thing she will do for us,” she said.

“So it is emotional for her, and for all the families of departed loved ones.”

The sculpture was praised by those in attendance, and Edna Ciaraldi, who worked in day care serves at St Benedict’s at the Monkwearmouth Hospital site, said it was an apt tribute.

“It’s fabulous,” she said. “It was a fantastic place to be in and work.

“My aunt died in the hospice, and my mother and father both had cancer and used the chapel at the hospital.

“I think people will come here to remember their loved ones. It was a lovely place, and now there is a lasting memory, which is wonderful.”