Lucy Barber felt that the door of the Peace Hospice was “the hardest” door to enter for patients and so did her best to make them feel that although they were leaving their family they were joining another family.
She was a volunteer for the Samaritans in Watford when she made a successful application for the post of manager of the Peace Hospice shop in the town. From the outset, she showed a rare dedication, sometimes starting at seven in the morning and not going home until nine at night.
The following year Lucy became the Voluntary Services Organiser, giving talks at local stores and ladies’ afternoon teas to recruit more helpers. Later, she became Housekeeper for the Day Centre when it opened in a Portakabin in May, 1993. When it was finally decided that the Peace Memorial Hospital, derelict for 10 years, would become the home of the Hospice, Lucy felt it was an appropriate site: “It is such a lovely building – you felt as if it used to hug you”.
She recalled that when the Hospice was opened in 1996 GPs were at first seemingly reluctant to refer patients, but everyone involved soon learned that it was a place of “warmth and love”. And while one had to learn to “live with death” the Hospice was often full of laughter, fun and camaraderie.
As the Hospice grew, with a new Inpatient unit with 11 beds opened by Princess Michael of Kent in 2000, Lucy, by then aged 60, was asked to manage Reception. Since hers was the first face people would encounter she knew the importance of those first moments: “You have to welcome people who don’t know what they’re going to find – you try to soften the blow”.
Suffering from ill health, Lucy Barber retired from Peace Hospice Care at Easter, 2014, and received a long service award from Princess Michael for her 22 years of devotion to a heartfelt cause. The Hospice showed its appreciation by sending her roses named Peace and Retirement, while a bird bath arrived later. It seemed there were few non-medical tasks she hadn’t tackled along the way, but especially in the early days, when she did the grocery shopping, sometimes cooked meals, collected patients from their homes and took them on trips on a canal boat. She also performed a crucial role in launching Hospice at Home and was widely regarded as the Fount of All Knowledge.
Lucy often employed a metaphor to advise volunteers and staff:
“We are like a quilt that covers the patients. A quilt is made up of all colours, shapes and patterns. It is sewn together and it makes you feel comfortable, loved and warm – that is what our volunteers and staff have to be”.