Rob and Barbara’s first date was at Tewkesbury Abbey on the last day of February 2017. After a lovely meal, their quiet walk around the gardens was interrupted when Barbara grazed her head. With tissue in hand, Rob gently dabbed the scratch, and that was when he knew. ‘There really is such a thing as love at first sight,’ he thought to himself.

The two had both experienced some loneliness and finding each other gave them warmth and happiness. They’d instantly fallen in love, and would spend long weekends together enjoying the countryside and each other’s company.

When Rob was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he became a patient at Katharine House.

Rob and Barbara knew they wanted to be ‘married’ before he died, and they wanted a ceremony to take place at Katharine House, a place where Rob said he felt ‘genuinely privileged to be a patient.’

Neither felt that a traditional marriage service would reflect who they were as a couple. After spending time in the chapel at Katharine House, a quiet and peaceful space where people of all faiths, or no faith, can take part in services, pray, or just sit and gather their thoughts, Rob spoke to our chaplain James about his dilemma.

After getting to know the couple a bit more, James researched different religious and spiritual ceremonies, to see if there was something that would fit their wishes.

After a while, James came across a ceremony known as ‘hand fasting’, a simple, non-religious ceremony dating back thousands of years in which two people join hands and tie them with a cord.

The knot symbolises their love for each other and the binding together of their individual lives. It’s from this ceremony that we get the expression ‘tying the knot’, and for Rob and Barbara it was just what they wanted.

Not only did the couple want the ceremony to take place at Katharine House, they also wanted to share their special day with as many staff at the hospice as possible; people Rob has come to count as friends.

"The people at Katharine House are faultless, they are caring, compassionate, loving and always have a smile. Whenever I am back, the nurses always say they’ve missed me and it is like a boost, more than my medication. If I do come back to Katharine House I feel like I’ll be coming back to a lot of friends."

So, with invitations distributed, the big day approached. As staff and friends filled the chapel, Rob was helped into his best suit, as he read through the views he’s written himself, still editing to make sure the words were perfect words for the love of his life.

By the end of the ceremony, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, and Rob and Barbara invited everyone into the hospice’s Living Well lounge for champagne and cake. 

After a few more weeks together, Rob died at Katharine House in January 2020.

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