I am a writer and journalist based in Manchester.
After gaining a BSc with first class honours and a PhD from Bristol University, I took my first job on the Evening Gazette newspaper in Middlesbrough. It was here that I met Mary Butterwick. Her story struck an instant chord with me because my grandmother died following a very short illness, aged 52, in the same month that Mary lost her husband, John. It happened at opposite ends of the country, but the lack of care in the hospitals during that bitter cold winter, and the hurt this caused, were exactly the same. Of course it was a shock to lose someone so close, almost without warning, but it was the careless words, the lack of dignity and respect for life that created even deeper wounds, so hard to heal. If we both had experienced this, I knew that there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of others who felt the same.
Many years later, my grandfather died in St Ann's Hospice in Manchester. The contrast in care, while it didn't make the loss any less, meant that we were able to spend his last days enjoying our time together. As a family we all felt loved and cared for in a time of vulnerability. A kind word or a smile costs nothing. Why do we sometimes find the simplest gifts so hard to give? However, as I got to know her better I realised that she not only achieved so much in her later years but also led a dramatic early life which helped to mould her into the strong character she is today. As well as touching so many lives through her work for the hospice movement, Mary is an inspiration to anyone looking to achieve a seemingly unreachable goal or dream. Doing what you can rather than focusing on what you can't is a valuable lesson for us all. In this way we learn to make every moment count and start to move towards our dreams. Mary is proof that no matter what your circumstances, if you have the heart and will for something, you can make it happen.
I was privileged to work with another bunch of inspirational people on a book with the Archbishop of York entitled, John Sentamu's Faith Stories, published by Darton, Longman and Todd in February 2013.
I have also written Against The Odds: True Stories of Healing and Forgiveness, which is a collection of stories showing the importance of forgiveness and its potential as a healing force within society. The book features a range of practitioners and church leaders who provide reflections on the stories, offering a different perspective, and questions at the end of each story that focus on the themes raised.
Against the Odds will be published by The Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) in February 2014.