This Christmas Southern Area Hospice Services reach a milestone as they celebrate 30 years of Hospice Care. 

Over six days we will tell the story of local people who have used the service throughout those 30 years.

Since 1989 the Hospice…Your Hospice… has cared for thousands of patients and their families living across the Southern Trust Area, providing specialist Palliative Care to those with life limiting conditions. 

Robert Hanna
Robert Hanna

Robert (Harry) Hanna 

My Dad from Lurgan, Co Armagh was first and foremost a family man who loved nothing more than being with his wife, Belle, children, Jenny, Stephen & Carole and his grandson, Sam – together with his extended family.   He delighted in family meals and get-togethers – occasions that were always filled with laughter and his great stories!

A Plumbing & Heating Contractor by trade – he was the third generation of his family to serve the Lurgan community through the family business “Hanna Bros.” –  Dad was in the process of semi-retirement and handing on the reigns of the business to my brother, Stephen, when he was diagnosed with Lung Cancer in Dec, 2016. 

As well as his love of work, Dad was passionate about his other great love… Gliding.  He was a fully qualified Pilot, flying both powered planes and gliders.  In fact, he served as the Chief Flying Instructor with the Ulster Gliding Club for many years, teaching numerous people, young and old, how to fly!  He was patient, considerate and a willing teacher!  He loved to soar the skies around the North Coast and Donegal… even venturing as far as the Spanish Pyrenees on flying holidays. 

He was a tower of strength to our family and his wise counsel is much missed by all of us.  He always put our needs before his own and we could rely upon him 100%.  We miss his easy-going ways and his positive attitude. 

Dad was an in-patient in the Hospice on 3 occasions…November 2017 was his first stay for a few days’ review.  His last two stays were in December 2018 just before Christmas and, finally, February 2019. 

Dad was diagnosed with Lung Cancer in mid-December 2016, following a routine annual medical for his Pilots’ Licence. He was 76 years of age.  His cancer was caused by exposure to asbestos in work as a young man.  He had been aware that he had some issues surrounding his lungs and was being monitored for this.  However, the cancer diagnosis came as a bolt of lightning to all of us.  He came to Hospice care through his MacMillan Nurse, Sally, part of the Palliative Care Team.  She was a lifeline to us, explaining every stage of the process during Dad’s illness.   

Following Chemotherapy and Radio Therapy treatment during the first 6 months of 2017, Dad had been left weakened, feeling unwell and vulnerable.   Sally indicated that he would benefit from some in-patient care and a medicines review early in November, 2017.  He was reticent at first, as many people are.   Though, following chats with Sally and all of us, he decided that it would be in his best interests to “give it a go”.   He never looked back!  From his first day in Newry… He felt like he was in the best possible place.  He called the Hospice his “5-star hotel”!  Dad loved the food at Hospice and made me get the menu from the chef so that when he came home, I could recreate the meals he had enjoyed!

On every occasion Dad stayed in the Hospice he felt relaxed and completely safe.  He was confident that the care he would be receiving would be the best for him.  As a family, we could not speak highly enough of the atmosphere of love and care that we experienced whilst Dad was a patient in Hospice.  It was a quiet and relaxing oasis in the midst of turmoil. 

We felt, first and foremost, that nothing was too much trouble or inconvenience.  Staff were on-hand 24/7 for discussion – no matter how trivial – about Dad’s condition and also concerning how we were feeling. 

My Mother was allowed to spend as much time as possible with Dad on every occasion he was staying in the Hospice.  Dad had a private room and we were encouraged to visit with him at any time we wanted – something we remarked was so different from the normal hospital stays he had experienced.  We loved the fact that Dad could walk with us and go up in the lift to the Hospice Café and enjoy a “wee cuppa” as he called it.  This made things a bit more normal for us and allowed us to chat away from the bed.  We remarked that every person working in the Hospice was so friendly and understanding of our situation.  From the receptionist we first met, the cleaners, cooks, café volunteer assistants, through to the medical staff, chaplaincy, Social workers and pastoral workers, everyone was kind and interested in our story.

During the Christmas season of Dec 2018, Dad was in Hospice for 3 weeks.  We all remember those lovely days running up to Christmas spent in the Hospice with Dad.  The staff were so sensitive to his needs and we were given the time and information we needed to prepare for what was to be our final Christmas with Dad.  I remember a friend sent Dad a tiny little hand-made wooden Christmas tree with lights on.  We put it in the window of his room.  Every time we came to see him the lights were lit and he told us that the nurses turned it on first thing every morning, and switched it off last thing each night.  He loved it!

Dad came home on 21st Dec, 2018 to spend Christmas with us.  Thanks to new medications he was bright and happy.  He enjoyed a family Christmas, visiting at each of our homes, and celebrating the holidays with us.  We will never be able to thank staff enough for this opportunity to enjoy our Dad and hear the laughter around our dinner tables again.

Dad returned to Hospice on Friday, 1St February, 2019, after a sudden decline in his health.  The last week of Dad’s life was spent in the Hospice amongst the staff who had become friends to us all.  It was where he wanted to be and where he felt safe and secure.  He was reassured on his journey down to Newry in the ambulance.  He asked my Mum “Belle, where am I going to?”  She answered “Harry, you are going to your 5-star hotel!”  He smiled and relaxed.

During those difficult last days for us a family, the Hospice staff helped us to live through the end of Dad’s life, providing as much help and support as we needed.  The medical staff were so in-tune with Dad’s needs and treated him with dignity and respect.  He was pain-free and comfortable.  We were able to spend very precious time with Dad day and night.  The staff arranged his room so that we could stay at night and rest beside his bed.  We had some lovely moments as a family when we laughed at memories of good times.  We shed tears also but that was okay.  Staff were always on-hand to offer words of support. 

Dad’s grandson, Sam, was able to spend special times with his Granda.  He was 11 years of age at that time.  The Hospice Social Workers discussed how to manage Sam’s visits to Dad’s bedside.  We are so glad that Dad and Sam had these visits – it made the time after Dad’s passing easier to talk about with Sam.  We even made a special memory box for Sam to keep his mementoes of Granda in.

Dad died on 8th February, 2019, early in the morning.  He passed peacefully, with dignity and with my brother by his side.  We have only precious memories of that last week.  We shall treasure them forever. 

During Dad’s illness we availed of many of the services offered by the Hospice.  As we have said Dad was an in-patient on 3 separate occasions.  During these stays we were fortunate to meet with the those offering us Bereavement Counselling, Social Workers, the Specialist Palliative Care Team and Dad really treasured the visits from the Chaplaincy too.  We felt that the service was so joined-up!  Everyone was aware of Dad’s illness, complications and needs.  It was refreshing to us as a family to see this.

Please, do not be afraid to “give it a go” as Dad said.  Yes, there can be fear surrounding the word “Hospice” due to the associations with death and dying.  However, we all learned that Hospice helped Dad to live with his cancer.  To enjoy his life and time with his family.  We can honestly say that the Hospice enabled our family to have quality time with Dad… all along.  He was content and safe in the care of the team.

Thank you to all of the staff at Newry Hospice for their unfailing care of Dad & us! 

The Hanna Family.

 Light Up A Life

Southern Area Hospice invite you to remember your loved one this Christmas as they celebrate 30 years of Hospice Care… your light will shine down from their tree throughout the Christmas period. 

 To dedicate a Light to a Loved one this Christmas please visit

Or text LIGHTS to 70660 to donate £10. 

By remembering your loved one’s this Christmas you will be helping the Hospice to care for someone else’s, as they look toward their next 30 years.

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