“I FEEL part of a family” — a widow tells how Bury Hospice gave her purpose in the weeks and months following her husband’s death.

Pat Moon nursed her husband of 54 years, Derek, at home for more than nine years after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and subsequently cancer.

But finding it increasingly difficult to look after him at the end, Derek came to the inpatient ward at Bury Hospice, where he received end-of-life care.

Soon after his death in May 2017, Pat was called upon to help at the hospice for just four hours to "fill a gap" due to a last-minute staffing need. She returned again the next day.

And more than one year later, the dedicated 74-year-old is giving two days each week to serve as both kitchen assistant and volunteer day services driver.

“I absolutely love it", Pat said. “I came here to help out shortly after my husband passed away at the hospice, and I never left.

“It is very rewarding. I feel part of a family from the moment I walk into the hospice and am greeted by the ladies on reception.”

Pat nursed her husband Derek at home for eight years after he was diagnosed with MS.

But in early 2016, doctors discovered that Derek had developed progressive cancer of the bile duct. He was given just three months to live.

Pat, from Brandlesholme, said: "He actually had 16 months. They were happy months and we have some treasured memories from that time.

“From the moment Derek came through the door of the hospice, he was treated as a member of their family. The nurses encouraged our friends to come and see him. My daughter’s dog even came to visit. He was so happy to be here. It was a beautiful place to be.

“But Derek's death left a massive void.

“A few friends have said they can’t understand how I can work here when my husband died here. But I know he would be really proud of me."

The grandmother-of-three was first called upon to work in the kitchen by daughter Sam Duncan who works as Bury Hospice's head of retail and volunteer services.

Pat now volunteers twice weekly on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Her role involves preparing and serving up salads and sandwiches for visitors, staff and sometimes patients, as well as cleaning the dishes.

Pat said: "In the beginning, volunteering here was a reason for me to get up in the morning. My day was full and I felt needed.

"The day that Sam called me up and asked me to help out in the kitchens, I turned a corner — I’m moving on all the time and I have been given the courage to do new things I wouldn’t have ever thought of.

"I have gained so much, made new friends, joined events and gone on outings I never thought I would. I even enjoy cleaning the pots and pans."

Pat said: "The whole atmosphere is so nice. I get the opportunity to chat with the patients when I'm taking food in.

"I could not work in a nicer place.

“I just hope readers will really listen. I hope they will come and volunteer too. You get so much back."

There are currently around 450 volunteers at Bury Hospice who, together, carry out a minimum of 4,000 hours of unpaid work each month.

Other volunteers have shared their experiences of working at the hospice as part of Hospice Care Month — to improve understanding and dispelling the myths.

Grandfather-of-10 Eamonn Duffy has been volunteering at the hospice for 14 years — initially as a van driver and now at the hospice charity shop in The Rock.

The 75-year-old joined the team shortly after retiring from L’Oréal's distribution section.

He said: "I do anything that is needed. I feel I have a privileged life compared to so many and wanted to try and give a bit back."

Retired police officer Heather Spencer has been volunteering for Bury Hospice for five years.

During that time, the 55-year-old from Walmersley has been a listening ear to people in the outpatient ward, has assisted with an arts and crafts station, worked in the canteen, lent a hand in the gardens and more.

Just last week, Heather helped to plant 600 daffodil bulbs and found herself knee-deep in water, pulling out pondweed.

She is currently working on the ward.

"It is lovely", she said. "The nursing staff are fantastic. There are some very sad times but I want to be there to do my bit.

"Hopefully I help take some of the pressure off the nursing staff.

"My own mum died of cancer on a hospital ward. But to die here, surrounded by family and loving nurses, hopefully as a relative you are left on the best footing you can be."

Some of the day-to-day roles that volunteers fill include administration duties, supporting the clinical staff on the inpatient unit and day care services, working within retail at the hospice shops, sorting donated goods and providing customer service, or helping to fundraise for the charity.

Paul Fennelly, head of fundraising at the hospice, said: "The work of volunteers is invaluable to us.

"We could not survivor without their help and support. Their dedication is unbelievable.

"It is remarkable how enthusiastic people are.

"If you are thinking of volunteering, please come and speak to us."