Tom and Mel Mayhew – St Elizabeth Hospice Memory Tree 10th Anniversary

As well as the Memory Tree, we have also joined the hospice’s annual Suffolk Remembers memorial event, both of which have been special ways to join with the hospice to remember dad and keep his memory alive

For the last decade many Suffolk families have made a poignant tribute to a loved one through making a dedication to St Elizabeth Hospice’s Memory Tree.

Created from a hand carved bronze trunk and branches, solid brass, aluminum and copper leaves with decorative cast bronze rocks, the Memory Tree has become a popular focal point at St Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich. The tree can hold 500 dedicated name on its leaves and rocks, and since 2011 it has held over 1,000 names, and raised almost £300,000 for St Elizabeth Hospice. 

Located beside the hospice’s Reflections space, a tranquil place which is available to patients, families and staff for quiet thought, the Memory Tree’s leaves and rocks are engraved with the names of loved ones who have died, symbolising the precious memories of the community and those who have been cared for by the hospice.

One person whose name and dedication is remembered on the Memory Tree, is Mel Mayhew, who received care from St Elizabeth Hospice before his death, aged 64 in January 2019.

Mel’s son, Tom Mayhew, explained: “While dad was cared for by the hospice, he spoke about how eye catching the Memory Tree was”. 

“He was very close with his colleagues at Flagship Homes and they were keen to give back to the hospice after seeing the care dad had received and we decided dedicating a leaf on the Memory Tree would be a good way of doing this”.

“As well as the Memory Tree, we have also joined the hospice’s annual Suffolk Remembers memorial event, both of which have been special ways to join with the hospice to remember dad and keep his memory alive.”

Mel Mayhew and Tom Mayhew – photo by Mayhew Family

Born and bred in Suffolk, Mel was a familiar face in the local community through his involvement with local theatre companies, working backstage, and helping to run local rugby and football teams in his younger years. 

After a short period of ill health, Mel was diagnosed with bowel cancer in September 2018 and came under the care of St Elizabeth Hospice after previously receiving treatment at Ipswich Hospital. 

“It all happened very quickly and after receiving the difficult news that dad’s condition was terminal, he was determined to remain as positive as ever and decided to have chemo therapy to prolong his time as much as possible. Unfortunately, after receiving his initial course of chemo, the doctors said it wasn’t effective and moved him to palliative care,” said Tom.

“We had a really good family Christmas together but on Boxing Day dad started to feel very unwell. Before we took him into hospital, they mentioned the support the hospice would be able to provide us, which dad was keen to receive as he had a trust and affection for the hospice after his sister Angela had been cared for there before she passed away.

“Going to the hospice was always his first choice and St Elizabeth staff made him feel comfortable and gave him peace of mind. The support of nurses also meant we as a family could focus on being there for dad, as we knew his medical care and comfort was being take care of.

“Even small gestures like offering to help us trim his beard made a big difference to us and dad, who took pride in his appearance”.

Having worked at Flagship Homes in Ipswich for many years, Mel was a popular member of the team and as well as making a donation to Mel’s dedication on the Memory Tree, his former colleagues have continued to support St Elizabeth Hospice through fundraising for such events as the hospice’s annual Midnight Walk. 

Rosalie Sheppard, Housing Officer at Flagship Homes, said: “Mel was so kind and caring with such a witty (sometimes cheeky) side. He lit up the room when he came in and we all shared so many laughs with him. 

“For me personally, it was Mel’s intellect that stood him out from the crowd, he was so well educated and there was nothing he didn’t know. I know it’s a cliché but Mel really was a ‘one in a million’ and we still talk about him all of the time, sharing funny stories of moments we had with him.

“We decided to support the St Elizabeth Hospice because this is where Mel spent his final days. Mel had to wait for a bed to become available to him but as soon as one did and he has settled in, the care and support he received was exceptional. The staff St Elizabeth Hospice staff were truly wonderful in ensuring that, the end-of-life care Mel received was delivered with kindness and compassion.

“To have a place within your community, where people can go to be cared for, where you can visit your loved one easily and patients and visitors alike are cared for with kindness and compassion, is a gift and something to be celebrated.”

To make a dedication to St Elizabeth Hospice’s Memory Tree visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/support-us/make-a-donation/donate-in-memory/memory-tree/  

St Elizabeth Hospice improves life for people in east Suffolk living with a progressive or life-limiting illness. The hospice’s work is centered on an individual’s needs whenever and wherever it is needed, whether at home, in the community or at the hospice.

To find out more information about St Elizabeth Hospice call 01473 723600 or visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk

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