Colourful clothes, no drab black

“I have decided that I am ok with being cremated,” wrote Fiona Paine to her family in November 2021.

Fiona’s husband Ed said that Fiona gave him plenty of instructions about her plans for her funeral and then her memorial service: “Colourful clothes, no drab black. Ed knows which Ave Maria tune I like. And maybe All things bright and beautiful and Psalm 23 which we had for my mum? Have a bit of a party, celebrate how much I loved and love, you all.”

Ed spoke to me on Fiona’s 63rd birthday on Tuesday 20th February. Fiona had died from Lymphoma on 3rd August 2023, a couple of weeks after her daughter Sophie’s wedding. Fiona was able to attend the wedding at the church near her house in Upper Winchendon. It was the last time that she got out of bed.

Fiona was cared for in the last three weeks of her life by the Florence Nightingale nurses who form the FNH@Home team and who care for patients at the end of their lives in their own homes in Buckinghamshire rather than in hospital or a hospice. She had received medical treatment including various experimental therapies following her diagnosis until her condition became untreatable, her headaches showing that cancer had spread to her brain, and her doctor referred her to FNH@Home.

The term ‘palliative care’ had sounded scary, but it was such a relief for Fiona to be cared for at home. “She loved it when they walked through the door,” Ed said, as they immediately put her at ease, light-hearted and calling her ‘Fi’ straight away. Fiona had spent a lot of time in hospital and Ed describes how pleased she was to be home. “She loved her home, looking out over the garden she had created, and the care she received from the Florence Nightingale Team was priceless.”

The team came twice a day and then three times, to look after Fiona, wash her and make her comfortable as she soon became bed bound. Over the three weeks her ability to talk tailed off but she could still smile, and they carried on talking to her and making her smile, “they took a great load off us” Ed said.

A hospital bed was provided, and a wheelchair meant the Fiona could attend her daughter’s wedding. Ed says that “the beam on her face said it all”.

Fiona had a wide group of friends who all loved her, as well as her family. She had met Ed in Oxford and moved with him to Brazil where she adored both the people and the weather. They had three children, Sophie, Laura and Nicholas and when they returned to England, Fiona looked after the children and played an active role as a volunteer in her community. She volunteered at Horatio’s Garden at Stoke Mandeville, for Riding for the Disabled, at Waddesdon Manor and was both a volunteer and trustee at Bucks Association for the Care of Offenders (BACO).

Fiona died when she was 62. At the end of her letter to Ed and her children she wrote “Other thoughts – life really is short.  The more you enjoy it, the faster it goes so savour each day if at all possible, even when it feels dull and mundane. Hold those you love close, and tell them how much they mean to you.  Try not to sleep on an argument – ask to discuss problems and forgive people.  We are all human and make bad choices and decisions sometimes. Be kind and generous without an agenda. Do as you would be done by. Love to the full.”

Ed plays trumpet in the Aylesbury Vale Concert Orchestra and will be performing at the Appassionata concert at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre on Sunday 17th March. All proceeds from this concert will be donated to Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity which funds FNH@Home.

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